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i i n 1 1 M ! > r t T t r t > > t r f r f r r T f rr r T - 

ife^l^r A ^^¥M 

I Eu ripid es 

Bacchanals etc. 


5r '^^ 

3 "1 

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6. THE PRINCE. By Machiavelli. 














7. HOMER'S ILIAD, Translated by George Chapman. 









25 and 26. DON QUIXOTE (Two Volumes). 


28, DANTE'S DIVINE COMEDY. Longfellow's Trans- 






Written by Himself. 




36. STORIES OF IRELAND. By Maria Edgeworth. 

37. THE PLAYS OF A Kl STOPH A NES, Translated by 


38. SPEECHES AND LETTERS. By Edmund Burke. 


Thomas Crofton Croker. 

41. THE PLAYS of ^SCHYLUS, Translated by R.Potter. 

42. GOETHE'S FAUST, the Second Part. 

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47. THE BARONS' ^WARS, &c. By Michael Drayton. 


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55. ESSAYS. By Winthrop Mackworth Praed. 

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1. Sheridan's Plays. 

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24. Cavendish's Life of Wolsey. 
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27. Burlesque Plays and Poems. 

28. Dante's Divine Comedy. 

Longfellow's Translation. 

29. Goldsmith's Vicar of Wake- 

field, Plays, and Poems. 

30. Fables and Proverbs from 

the Sanskrit. {Hitopadesa.) 

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of an Opium-Eater, &'c. 
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Frere's Aristophanes; 

Acharnians, Knights, Birds. 
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Thomas h Kempis. 
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Goethe's Faust: Part II. 

Anster's Translation. 
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M. G. Lewis's Tales of 

Terror and Wonder. 

Vestiges of the Natural 

History oj Creation. 
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Nytnphidia, &'c. 
Cobbett's Advice to Young 


The Banquet of Dante. 
Walker's Original. 
Schiller's Poems and 

Peele's Plays and Poems. 
Harrington's Oceana. 
Euripides : A Ices lis and 

otlier Plays. 
Praeds Essays. 
Traditional Tales. 

Allan Cunningham. 
Hooker's Ecclesiastical 

Polity. Books I. -IV. 
Euripides : The Bacchanals 

ana other Plays. 

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PA _ 


The beautiful translation of "The Bacchanals" which opens this 
volume was made by the late Henry Hart Milman, who^.\vas Dean 
of St. Paul's wlien he died in 1868. It liad its origin in English 
verse translations made to illustrate a course of Latin Lectures on 
ihe History of Gi'eek Poetry, delivered when Milman had made his 
own reputation as a dramatic poet with " Fazio " in 1815, " The Fall of 
Jerusalem" in 1820, and " The Martyr of Antioch " in 1821. In that 
vear 1821, Milman — who M'as then Vicar of St. Mary's, Reading — was 
elected to the Oxford Professorship of Poetry. He had been known 
in Oxford as a poet frc-m his student years. In 1812 he had carried 
off the Newdigate Prize for an English Poem on the Apollo Belvedere, 
and he had three times obtained the Chancellor's Prize. As Poetry 
Pi'ofessor he translated specimens of the Greek Dramatists upon 
whose art he lectured. These translations he published in 1865, with 
a development of two of the plays — "The Agamemnon" of ^schylus 
and "The Bacchanals" of Euripides — into complete versions. The 
volume in which these plays were published,* with the translated 
Passages of Greek Poetry which had been set in the lectures given 
many years before, is a beautiful book, illustrated with woodcuts drawn 
from antique gems — the sort of book that ranks with the best orna- 
ments of a well-furnished home. I thank most heartily the poet's 
son, Mr. Arthur Milman, and Mr. John Murray the publisher, for 
leave to borrow from the volume this ti-anslation of " The Bacchanals," 
for the purpose of giving to English readers a fuller sense of the 
genius of Euripides than they might get from the faithful last century 
translators upon whom we have chiefly to depend. 

The other plays in this volume are given in the translations ot 
Michael Wodhull, who published in 1809 his version of " The Nine- 
teen Tragedies and Fragments of Euripides." Wodhull had published 

' " The Agamemnon of yEschylus and the Bacchanals of Euripides with Passages 
from the Lyric and Later Poets of Greece." Translated by Henrj' Hart Milman, 
D.D., Dean of St. Paul's. John Murray. 1865. 


a limited edition of 150 copies of his own Poems in 1772, and published 
also in 1798 a poem on " The Ecjuality of Mankind ; " but he did not 
win, as Milman has won, enduring recognition as an English poei. 
He spent, however, many years of patient work, with great enjoyment, 
upon the endeavour to produce an accurate translation of the whole 
works of Euripides that now remain. His first design was to translate 
selected plays, but where choice was difficult and zeal was active there 
was nothing that could be left out. WodhuU's verse has too many 
prosaic turns, but it is well that the English reader should see Euripides 
through the eyes of more than one translator. 

Dean Milman translated " The Bacchanals " because he regarded it as, 
on the whole, entitled to the highest place among the plays of Euripides, 
though there may be passages of more surpassing beauty in '' Tl.e 
Medea" and "The Hippolytus ;"in "The Alcestis" and " Iphigenia" 
of greater tenderness. He observed that even Lord Macaulay, with his 
contemjifuous depreciation of Euripides, acknowledged the transcendent 
excellence of "The Bacclice," the only surviving Greek tragedy con- 
nected with the worship and mystic history of Dionysus — Bacchus. 

In the " Christus Patiens,"' ascribed to Gregory of Nazianzen, who 
was made Bishop of Constantinople in the year 380 and died in 389, 
some lines given by Euripides to Agave in " The Bacchanals " were trans- 
ferred to the Virgin Mary's lament over her son, and this use of the 
passage led to its omission from all texts of Euripides that have come 
down to us. " I have been audacious enough," said Dean Milman, 
"to endeavour to make restitution to the Heathen; and from the 
hints furnished by the ' Christus Patiens,' and of course other images 
more suited to her tragic state as the murderess of her son, to supply 
the speech of Agave, distinguishing it by a different type." 

Michael WodhuU includes in his volumes as a guide among the 
incidents of many of the Greek Plays a "History of the House of 
Tantalus." In short, it runs thus, to the siege of Troy. 

Tmolus, a Lydian king, married Pluta, and, Jupiter intervening, 
Pluta was mother of Tantalus. Tantalus lived at Sipylus, with riches 
that became proverbial. The gods came to dine with him, but, through 
vanity, he told ^ain their counsels that he heard, for which he was 
placed after death to thirst in the midst of a lake from which it was 
impossible to drink, or according to Euripides (in "Orestes") had an 
enormous stone hanging over his head. Tiiat he dished up for the gods 
the limbs of his son Pelops, Iphigenia m Tauris calls a fable of savages 
who excuse their own cruelty by finding its like in higher places. 
Tantalus by his wife Euryanassa had two sons, Pelops and Broteas, and 
one daughter, Niobe. Niobe married Amphion, who raised the walls of 
Thebes by music of his lyre. Having seen all her children slain by the 
shafts of Apollo and Diana, Niobe, all tears, was changed into a rock. 


The tomb of her seven daughters is spoken of ia the play of " The 
Phoenician Damsels " as not far from the gates of Thebes. Sipylus, in 
which TantaUis ruled, was swallowed by an earthquake, and Tantalus, 
having by a false oath denied a pledge, was killed by Jupiter, who 
hunted him down the mountain at the foot of which Sipylus stood. 

Pelops succeeded his father Tantalus. Defeated in contests with 
Ilus, founder of the Trojan nation, he sought alliance with Greece by 
marrying Hippodamia, daughter of G<^nomaus, king of Pisa. She was 
to be given to the man who overcame her father in a chariot race, but 
he who did not overcome was to be slain. OEnomaus was first always, 
because his chariot was driven by Myrlilus, the son of Mercury. But 
Pelops made a base compact with Myrtilus, who joined the wheels of 
Ginomaus to his chariot with wax, and caused his overthrow when 
in the race with Pelops. A dispute followed, in which Pelops killed 
(iMiomaus with a spear. Pie killed also Myrtilus, the son of Mercury, 
rather than fulfil the compact he had made. This drew down the 
vengeance of Mercury upon Atreus and Thyestes, the two eldest of the 
seven sons of Pelops. Pelops himself throve, made prosperous alliances, 
and gathered into one the territories of Apia and Pelasgia, so that 
the whole peninsula of Greece was called after him the Peloponnessus. 
One of his sons, Pittheus, whom Euripides celebrates for piety, was the 
father of yEthra who was the mother of Theseus, who was the father 
of Hippolitus. Pelops had for one daughter Anaxibia, who married 
Strophius, king of Phocis, and was the mother of Pylade?, friend to his 
kinsman Orestes ; for another daughter, Lysidice, who married Electryon, 
king of Mycene, and was the mother of Alcmena, who married 
Amphitryon, and became the mother of Hercules. Pelops had also 
another daughter, Nicippe, who married Sthenelus. He seized the throne 
of Mycene when Amphitryon had accidentally killed Electryon his 
father-in-law. Nicippe and Sthenelus had a son Eurystheus, who 
succeeded his father in Mycene, and whose ill-treatment of Hercules 
and of the children of Hercules is treated of by Euripides in his play 
of " The Children of Hercules." 

Pelops had also a natural son, Chrysippus, who was treacherously 
stolen from him by Laius his guest. For this breach of hospitality 
Laius, as the oracle foretold, died by the hands of his own son 

After the death of Pelops his eldest sons Atreus and Thyestes ruled 
together in Argos ; until Mercury caused a ram with a golden fleece to 
appear among the flocks of Atreus, who took it as a sign that he alone 
should rule. The citizens of Argos were invited to decide. Before 
they met, Thyestes, by collusion with /Erope the wife of Atreus, 
conveyed the Golden Ram into his own stalls and obtained the vote 
of the people. Atreus in revenge caused the tMO children of his 


false wife and Thyestes to be served up to Tliyestes at a feast. At 
this horror portents appeared in the skies. Atreus drowned /Erope, 
drove Thyestes out of Argos, and not only ruled in Argos but added 
Mycene when Eurystheus had been slain by the sons of Hercules. 
Hut iEgisthus, a son of Thyestes by his own daughter Pelopia, murdered 
his uncle Atreus and made his father again king in Argos. Atreus had 
l.y his wife /Erope, before she gave herself to Thyestes, two sons, 
Agamemnon and Menelaus. They were sent for protection against 
their uncle Thyestes to the court of Polyidas, king of Sicyon, who sent 
ihcm on to fEneus, king of (Etolia. 

Agamemnon, while thus in difficulties, killed a Tantalus junior, 
grandson to the founder of the family. He killed this Tantalus that he 
might take possession of his wife Clytemnestra, daughter to Tyndarus, 
king of Sparta. Euripides in the " Iphigenia in Aulis " makes Clytem- 
nestra reproach Agamemnon with having also killed the infant child 
of her first marriage by tearing it out of her arms and dashing it 
upon the floor. Castor and Pollux, sons of Leda by Jupiter Swan, made 
war then upon Agamemnon and reduced him to submission. T)nidarus 
king of Sparta then gave Clytemnestra to Agamemnon for a wife, and 
also helped him and his brother Menelaus to subdue Thyestes, who took 
refuge at an altar of Juno, and gave himself up to his nephews on 
promise that they would spare his life. They deposed him and confined 
him for the rest of his days in the island of Cithera. 

Clytemnestra's sister, tlie other daughter of Tyndarus, king of Sparta, 
was Helen, who had the chief princes of Greece for suitors. Tyndarus 
made them swear to support whatever man she miglit herself choose for 
husband, and her choice fell upon Menelaus. But soon after the 
marriage Paris, one of the sons of Priam, king of Troy, came with a 
splendid following to Sparta, and while her husband was away on 
business at Crete, Paris persuaded Helen to elope with him. Menelaus 
sent to demand her back from Troy. The Trojans kept her, and war 
followed with the siege of Troy, during which, according to Euripides 
in his play of "Helen," the real Helen had been conveyed by Mercury 
through the air and placed in the care of Proteus, king of Egj'pt, where 
she remained of stainless character, while Paris at Troy had only a 
cloud-image of her. Menelaus on his return from the ten years' war, 
driven upon the coast of Egypt, found his own Helen all that he could 

H. M. 
January 1888. 


The Bacchanals. 



Chorus of Bacchanals. 



Second Messenger. 


Unto this land of Thebes I come, Jove's son, 

Dionysus ; he whom Semele of yore, 
'Mid the dread midwifery of hghtning fire, 
Bore, Cadmus' daughter. In a mortal form, 
The God put off, by Dirce's stream I stand. 
And cool Ismenos' waters ; and survey 
My mother's grave, the thunder-slain, the ruins 
Still smouldering of that old ancestral palace, 
The flame still living of the lightning fire, 
Here's immortal vengeance 'gainst my mother. 

And well hath reverent Cadmus set his ban 
On that heaven-stricken, unapproached place. 
His daughter's tomb, which I have mantled o'er 
With the pale verdure of the trailing vine. 

And I have left the golden Lydian shores, 
The Phrygian and the Persian sun-seared plains, 
And Bactria's walls ; the Medes' wild wintery land 


Have passed, and Araby the Blest ; and all 
Of Asia, that along the salt-sea coast 
Lifts up her high-towered cities, where the Greeks, 
With the Barbarians mingled, dwell in peace. 

And everywhere my sacred choirs, mine Orgies 
Have founded, by mankind confessed a God. 
Now first in an Hellenic town I stand. 

Of all the Hellenic land here first in Thebes, 
I have raised my revel shout, my fawn-skin donned, 
Ta'en in my hand my thyrsus, ivy-crowned. 

But here, where least beseemed, my mother's sisters 
Vowed Dionysus was no son of Jove : 
That Semele, by mortal paramour won, 
Belied great Jove as author of her sin ; 
'Twas but old Cadmus' craft : hence Jove in wrath 
Struck dead the bold usurper of his bed. 

So from their homes I've goaded them in frenzy ; 
Their wits all crazed, they wander o'er the mountains. 
And I have forced them wear my wild attire. 
There's not a woman of old Cadmus' race, 
But I have maddened from her quiet house ; 
Unseemly mingled with the sons of Thebes, 
On the roofless rocks, 'neath the pale pines, they sit. 

Needs must this proud recusant city learn, 
In our dread Mysteries initiate, 
Her guilt, and humbly seek to make atonement 
To me, for Semele, mine outraged mother — 
To me, the God confessed, of Jove begot. 

Old Cadmus now his might and kingly rule 
To Pentheus hath given up, his sister's son, 
My godhead's foe ; who from the rich libation 
Repels me, nor makes mention of my name 
In holy prayer. Wherefore to him, to Thebes, 
And all her sons, soon will I terribly show 
That I am born a God : and so depart 
(Here all things well disposed) to other lands, 
Making dread revelation of myself. 

But if this Theban city, in her ire, 
With arms shall seek to drive from off the mountains 


My Bacchanal rout, at my wild Maenads' head 
I'll meet, and mingle in the awful war. 
Hence have I ta'en the likeness of a man, 
Myself transmuted into human form. 

But ye, who Tmolus, Lydia's strength, have left 
My Thyasus of women, whom I have led 
From lands barbarian, mine associates here. 
And fellow-pilgrims ; lift ye up your drums, 
Famiiiar in your native Phrygian cities, 
Made by your mother Rhea's craft and mine ; 
And beat them all round Pentheus' royal palace. 
Beat, till the city of Cndmus throngs to see. 
I to the Bacchanals in the dim glens 
Of « ild CithKron go to lead the dance. 
Chor. From the Asian shore, 

And by the sacred steep of Tmolus hoar, 

Light I danced with wing-like feet, 

Toilless toil and labour sweet 1 

Away ! away ! whoe'er he be ; 

Leave our path, our temple free ! 

Seal up each silent lip in holy awe. 

But I, obedient to thy law, 
O Dionysus ! chant the choral hymn to thee. 

Blest above all of human hne, 
Who, deep in mystic rites divine, 
Leads his hallowed life with us, 
Initiate in our Thyasus ; 
And, purified with holiest waters, 
Goes dancing o'er the hills with Bacchus' daughters. 
And thy dark orgies hallows he, 

mighty Mother, Cybele ! 
He his thyrsus shaking round. 
All his locks with ivy crowned, 

O Dionysus I boasts of thy dread train to be. 

Ijacchanals ! away, away I 

1 ead your God in fleet array ; 
Bacchus lead, the ever young, 

A God himself from Gods that sprung, 


From the Phrygian mountains down 
Through every wide-squared Grecian town. 
Him the Theban queen of yore 
'Mid Jove's fast-flashing hghtnings bore : 
In her awful travail wild 
Sprung from her womb the untimely child, 
While smitten with the thunderblast 
The sad mother breathed her last. 

Instant him Saturnian Jove 
Received with all a mother's love ; 
In his secret thigh immured, 
There with golden clasps secured, 
Safe from Here's jealous sight ; 
Then, as the Fates fulfilled, to light 
He gave the horndd god, and wound 
The living snakes his brows aroimd ; 
Whence still the wand(^d Maenads bear 
Their serpent prey wreathed in their floating hair. 

Put on thy ivy crown, 

O Thebes, thou sacred town ! 
O hallowed house of dark-haired Semele I 

Bloom, blossom everywhere, 

With flowers and fruitage fair, 
And let your frenzied steps supported be 

With thyrsi from the oak 

Or the green ash-tree broke : 

Your spotted fawn-skins line with locks 

Torn from the snowy fleecdd flocks : 
.Shaking his wanton wand let each advance, 
And all the land shall madden with the dance. 

Bromius, that his revel rout 
To the mountains leads about ; 
To the mountains leads along. 
Where awaits the female throng ; 
From the distaff, from the loom, 
Raging with the God they come. 
O ye mountains, wild and high, 
Where the old Kouretre lie : 


Glens of Crete, where Jove was nurst, 
In your sunless caverns first 
The crested Korybantes found 
The leathern drums mysterious round, 
That, mingling in harmonious strife 
With the sweet-breathed Phrygian fife, 
In Mother Rhea's hands they place. 
Meet the Bacchic song to grace. 
And the frantic Satyrs round 
That ancient Goddess leap and bound : 
And soon the Trieteric dances light 
Beg'.n, immortal Bacchus' chief delight. 

On the mountains wild 'tis sweet 

When faint with rapid dance our feet ; 

Our limbs on earth all careless thrown 

With the sacred fawn-skins strewn, 

To quaff the goat's delicious blood, • 

A strange, a rich, a savage food. 

Then off again the revel goes 

O'er Phrygian, Lydian mountain brows ; 

Evoe ! Evoe ! leads the road, 

Bacchus self the maddening God ! 
And flows with milk the plain, and flows with wine. 
Flows with the wild bees' nectar-dews divine ; 
And soars, like smoke, the Syrian incense pale — 
The while the frantic Bacchanal 
The beaconing pine-torch on her wand 
Whirls around with rapid hand, 
And drives the wandering dance about, 
Beating time with joyous shout. 
And casts upon the breezy air 
All her rich luxuriant hair ; 
Ever the burthen of her song, 
*' Raging, maddening, haste along 
Bacchus' daughters, ye the pride 
Of golden Tmolus' fabled side ; 
W^hile your heavy cymbals rinv;. 
Still vour * Evoe ! Evoe ! ' sine: ! " 


Evoe ! the Evian god rejoices 
In Phrygian tones and Phrygian voices, 
When the soft holy pipe is breathing sweet, 

In notes harmonious to her feet, 
Who to the mountain, to the mountain speeds ; 
Like some young colt that by its mother feeds, 

Gladsome with many a frisking bouiid, 
The Bacchanal goes forth and treads the echoing ground. 

TiR. Ho ! some one in the gates, call from his p.ilace 
Cadmus, Agenor's son, who, Sidon's walls 
Leaving, built up this towered city of Thebes. 
Ho ! some one say, " Tiresies awaits him." 
Well knows he why I am here ; the covenant 
Which I, th' old man, have made with him still older, 
To lift the thyrsus wand, the fawn-skin wear. 
And crown our grey liairs with the ivy leaves. 

Cad. Best friend ! with what delight within my palace 
I heard thy speech, the speech of a wise man ! 
Lo ! I am here, in the Gods' sacred garb ; 
For needs must we, the son of mine own daughter, 
Dionysus, now 'mongst men a manifest God, 
Even to the utmost of our power extol. 
Where shall we lead the dance, plant the light foot, 
And shake the hoary locks ? Tiresias, thou 
The aged lead the aged : wise nrt thou. 
Nor will I weary night and day the earth 
Beating with my lithe thyrsus. Oh, how sweetly 
Will we forget we are old ! 

TiR. Thou'rt as myself : 

I too grow young ; I too essay the dance. 

Cad. Shall we, then, in our chariots seek the mountains? 

TiR. It were not the same homage to the God. 

Cad. The old man still shall be the old man's tutor. 

TiR. The God will guide us thither without toil. 

Cad. Of all the land, join we alone the dance? 

TiR. All else misjudge ; we only are the wise. 

Cad. Too long we linger ; hold thou fast mine Imnd. 

TiR. Lo I thus true yoke-fellows join hand with hand. 

Cad. I, mortal-born, may not despise the Gods. 


TiR. No wile, no paltering with the deities. 
The ancestral faith, coeval with our race, 
No subtle reasoning, if it soar aloft 
Even to the height of wisdom, can o'enhrow. 
Some one will say that I disgrace mine age, 
Rapt in the dance, and ivy-crowned my head. 
The Gods admit no difference : old or young, 
All it behoves to mingle in the rite. 
From all he will receive the common honour, 
Nor deign to count his countless votaries. 

Cad. Since thou, Tiresias, seest not day's sweet light, 
I, as thy Seer, must tell thee what is coming. 
Lo, Pentheus, hurrying homewards to his palace, 
Echion's son, to whom I have given the kingdom. 
He is strangely moved ! Wiiat new thing will he say ? 

Pen. I have been absent from this land, and hear 
Of strange and evil doings in the city. 
Our women all have left their homes, to j jin 
These fabled mysteries. On the shadowy rocks 
Frequent they sit, this God of yesterday, 
Dionysus, whosoe'er he be, with revels 
Dishonourable honouring. In the midst 
Stand the crowned goblets ; and each stealing forth, 
This way and that, creeps to a lawless bed ; 
In pretext, holy sacrificing ]\Ucnads, 
But serving Aphrodite more than Bacchus. 
All whom I've apprehended, in their g^'ves 
Our officers guard in the public prison. 
Tiiose that have 'scaped I'll hunt from off the mountains, 
I no. Agave who to Echion bare me, 
Her too, Auton le, Anl^sus' mother; 
And fettering them all in iron bonds, 
I'll put an end to their mad wickedness. 
'Tis said a stranger hath appeared among us, 
A wizard, sorcerer, from the land of Lydia, 
Beauteous with golden locks and purple cheeks, 
Eyes moist with Aphrodite's melting fire. 
And day and night he is with the throng, to guile 
Young maidens to the soft inebriate rites. 


But if I catch him 'neath this roof, I'll silence 

The beating of his thyrsus, stay his locks' 

Wild tossing, from his body severing his neck. 

He, say they, is the new God, Dionysus, 

That was sewn up within the thigh of Jove, 

He, with his mother, guiltily that boasted 

Herself Jove's bride, was blasted by the lightning. 

Are not such deeds deserving the base halter ? 

Sin heaped on sin ! whoe'er this stranger be. 
But lo, new wonders ! see I not Tiresins, 

The prophet, in the dappled fawn-skin clad ? 

My mother's father too (a sight for laughter !) 

Tossing his hair .'' My sire, I blush for thee, 

Beholding thine old age thus fatuous grown. 

Wilt not shake off that ivy ? free thine hand 

From that unseemly wand, my mother's father 1 

This is thy work, Tiresias. This new God 

Wilt thou instal 'mongst men, at higher price 

To vend new auspices, and well paid offerings. 

If thine old age were not thy safeguard, thou 

Shouldst pine in chains among the Bacchanal women. 

False teacher of new rites ! For where 'mong women 
The grape's sweet poison mingles with the feast, 
Nought holy may we augur of such worship. 

Chor. Oh impious ! dost thou not revere the Gods, 
Nor Cadmus, who the earth-born harvest sowed .-• 
Echion's son ! how dost thou shame thy lineage ! 

TiR. 'Tis easy to be eloquent, for him 
That's skilled in speech, and hath a stirring theme. 
Thou hast the flowing tongue as of a wise man, 
But there's no wisdom in thy fluent words ; 
For the bold demagogue, powerful in speech. 
Is but a dangerous citizen, lacking sense. 
This the new deity thou laugh'st to scorn, 
I may not say how mighty he will be 
Throughout all Hellas. Youth ! there are two things 
Man's primal need, Demeter, the boon Goddess 
(Or rather will ye call her Mother Earth ?), 
With solid food maintains the race of man. 


He, on the other hand, the son of Semele, 

Found out the grape's rich juice, and taught us mortals 

That which beguiles the miserable of mankind 

Of sorrow, when they quaff the vine's rich stream. 

Sleep too, and drowsy oblivion of care 

He gives, all-healing medicine of our woes. 

He 'mong the gods is worshipped a great god, 

Author confessed to man of such rich blessmgs. 

Him dost thou laugh to scorn, as in Jove's thigh 

Sewn up. This truth profound will I unfold : 

When Jove had snatched him from the lightning-fire, 

He to Olympus bore the new-born babe. 

Stern Here strove to thrust him out of heaven, 

But Jove encountered her with wiles divine : 

He clove off part of th' earth-encircling air, 

There Dionysus placed the pleasing hostage, 

Aloof from jealous Her&. So men said 

Hereafter he was cradled in Jove's thigh 

(From the assonance of words in our old tongue 

For thigh and hostage the wild fable grew). 

A prophet is our god, for Bacchanalism 

And madness are alike prophetical. 

And when the god comes down in all his power, 

He makes the mad to rave of things to come. 

Of Ares he hath attributes : he the host 

In all its firm array and serried arms, 

With panic fear scatters, ere lance cross lance : 

From Dionysus springs this frenzy too. 

And him shall we behold on Delphi's crags 
Leaping, with his pine torches fighting up 
The rifts of the twin-headed rock ; and shouting 
And shaking all around his Bacchic wand 
Great through all Hellas. Pentheus, be advised ! 
Vaunt not thy power o'er man, even if thou thinkest 
That thou art wise (it is diseased, thy thought). 
Think it not I In the land receive the god. 
Pour wine, and join the dance, and crown thy brows. 
Dionysus does not force our modest matrons 
To the soft Cyprian rites ; the chaste by nature 


Are not so cheated of their chastity. 

Think well of this, for in the Bacchic choir 

The holy woman will not be less holy. 

Thou'rt proud, when men to greet thee throng the gates, 

And the glad city welcomes Pentheus' name ; 

He too, I ween, delights in being honoured. 

I, therefore, and old Cadmus whom thou mock'st, 
Will crown our heads with ivy, dance along 
An hoary pair — for dance perforce we must ; 
I war not with the gods. Follow my counsel ; 
Thou'rt at the height of madness, there's no medicine 
Can minister to disease so deep as thine. 

Chor. Old man ! thou sham'st not Phoebus thine own god. 
Wise art thou worshipping that great god Bromius. 

Cad. My son ! Tiresias well hath counselled thee ; 
Dwell safe with us within the pale of law. 
Now thou fliest high : thy sense is void of sense. 
Even if, as thou declar'st, he were no god, 
Call thou him god. It were a splendid falsehood 
If Semele be thought t' have borne a god ; 
'Twere honour unto us and to our race. 
Hast thou not seen Actaeon's wretched fate .'' 
The dogs he bred, who fed from his own board, 
Rent him in wrath to pieces ; for he vaunted 
Than Artemis to be a mightier hunter. 
So do i.ot thiui : come, let me crown thine head 
With ivy, and with us adore the god. 

Pen. Hold off thine hand ! Away ! Go rave and ciance, 
And wipe not off thy folly upon me. 
On him, thy folly's teacher, I will wreak 
Instant relentless justice. Some one go. 
The seats from which he spies the flight of birds — 
False augur— with the iron forks o'erthrow, 
Scattering in wild confusion all abroad, 
And cast his chaplets to the winds and storms ; 
Tiiou'k gall him thus, gall to the height of bitterness. 
Ye to the city ! seek that stranger out, 
That womanly man, who with this new disease 
Afflicts our matrons, and defiles their beds : 


Seize him and bring him hither straight in chains, 
That he may suffer stoning, that dread death. 
Such be his woful orgies here in Thebes. 

TiR. Oh, miserable ! That know'st not what thou saycst, 
Crazed wert thou, now thou'rt at the height of madness : 
But go we, Cadmus, and pour forth our prayer. 
Even for this savage and ungodly man, 
And for our city, lest the god o'ertake us 
With some strange vengeance. 

Come with thy ivy staffi 
Lean thou on me, and I will lean on thee : 
'Twere sad for two old men to fall, yet go 
We must, and serve great Bacchus, son of Jove. 
What woe, O Cadmus, will this woe-named man 
Bring to thine house ! I speak not now as prophet, 
But a plain simple fact : fools still speak folly. 
Chor. Holy goddess I Goddess old ! 

Holy I thou the crown of gold 

In the nether realm that wearest, 

Pentheus' awful speech thou hearest, 

Hearest his insulting tone 

'Gainst Semele's immortal son, 

Bromius, of gods the first nnd best. 

At every gay and flower-crowned feast, 

His the dance's jocund strife, 

And the laughter with the fife, 

Every care and grief to lull, 

When the sparkling wine-cup full 

Crowns the gods' banquets, or lets fall 
Sueet sleep on the eyes of men at mortal festival. 

Of tongue unbridled without awe. 
Of madness spurning holy law, 
Sorrow is the Jove-doomed close ; 
But the life of calm repose 
And modest reverence holds her state 
Unbroken by disturbing fate ; 
And knits whole houses in the tie 
Of swevt domestic harmony. 


Beyond the range of mortal eyes 
'Tis not wisdom to be wise. 
Life is brief, the present clasp, 
Nor after some bright future grasp. 
Such were the wisdom, as I ween, 
Only of frantic and ill-counselled men. 

Oh, would to Cyprus I might roam, 

Soft Aphrodite's isle, 
Where the young loves have their perennial home, 

That soothe men's hearts with tender guile : 
Or to that wondrous shore where ever 
The hundred-mouthed barbaric river 
Makes teem with wealth the showerless land I 
O lead me ! lead me, till I stand, 
Bromius ! — sweet Bromius ! — where high swelling 
Soars the Pierian muses' dwelling — 
Olympus' summit hoar and high — 
Thou revel-loving deity 1 
For there are all the graces, 
And sweet desire is there, 
And to those hallowed places 
To lawful rites the Bacchanals repair. 
The deity, the son of Jove, 

The banquet is his joy, 
Peace, the wealth-giver, doth he love, 

That nurse of many a noble boy. 
Not the rich man's sole possessing ; 
To the poor the painless blessing 
Gives he of the wine-cup bright. 
Him he hates, who day and night, 
Gentle night, and gladsome day, 
Cares not thus to while away. 
Be ihou wisely unsevere 1 
Shun the stern and the austere 1 
Follow the multitude ; 
Their usage slill pursue I 
Their homely wisdom rude 
(Such is my sentence) is both right and true. 


Officer. Pentheus, we nre here \ In vain we went not foitli ; 
The prey which thou commanuest we have taken. 
Gentle our quarry met us, nor turned back 
His foot in flight, but held out both his hands ; 
Became not pale, changed not his ruddy colour. 
Smiling he bade us bind, and lead him off, 
Stood still, and made our work a work of ease. 
Reverent I said, " Stranger, I arrest thee not 
Of mine own will, but by the king's command." 
But all the Bacchanals, whom thou hadst seized 
And bound in chains within the public prison. 
All now have disappeared, released they are leaping 
In their wild orgies, hymning the god Bacchus. 
Spontaneous fell the chains from oif their feet ; 
The bolts drew back untouched by mortal hand. 
In truth this man, with many wonders rife 
Comes to our Thebes. 'Tis thine t' ordain the rest. 

Pen. Bind fast his hands I Thus in his manacles 
Sharp must he be indeed to 'scape us now. 
There's beauty, stranger — woman-witching beauty 
(Therefore thou art in Thebes) — in thy soft form ; 
Thy fine bright hair, not coarse like the hard athlete's, 
Is mantling o'er thy cheek warm with desire ; 
And carefully thou hast cherished thy white skin ; 
Not in the sun's swart beams, but in cool shade, 
Wooing soft Aphrodite with thy loveliness. 
But tell me first, from whence hath sprung thy race ? 

Dio. There needs no boast ; 'tis easy to tell this : 
Of flowery Tmolus hast thou haply heard ? 

Pen. Yea ; that which girds around the Sardian city. 

Dio. Thence am I come, my country Lydia. 

Pen. Whence unto Hellas bringest thou thine orgies "i 

Dio. Dionysus, son of Jove, hatii hallowed them. 

Pen. Is there a Jove then, that begets new gods ? 

Dig. No, it was here he wedded Semele. 

Pen. Hallowed he them by night, or in the eye of day > 

Dio. In open vision he revealed his orgies. 

Pen. And what, then, is thine orgies' solemn form ? 

Dio. That is not uttered to the uninitiate. 


Pen. What profit, then, is theirs who worship him ? 
Dio. Thouinayst not know, though precious were that know- 
Pen. a cunning tale, to make me long to hear thee. 
Dio. The orgies of our god scorn impious worshippers. 
Pen. Thou saw'st the manifest god ! What was his forai ? 
Dio. Whate'er he would : it was not mine to choose. 
Pen. Cleverly blinked our question with no answer. 
Dio. Who wiseliest speaks, to the fool speaks foolishness. 
Pen. And hither com'st thou first with thy new god ! 
Dio. There's no Barbarian but adores these rites. 
Pen. Being much less wise than we Hellenians. 
Dio. In this more wise. Their customs differ much. 
Pen. Performest thou these rites by night or dny ? 
Dio. Most part by night — night hath more solemn awe. 
Pen. a crafty rotten plot to catch our women. 
Dio. Even in the day bad men can do bad deeds. 
Pen. Thou of thy wiles shall pay the penalty. 
Dio, Thou of thine ignorance — impious towards the gods ! 
Pen. He's bold, this Bacchus — ready enough in words. 
Dio. What penalty ? what evil wilt thou do me ? 
Pen. First will I clip away those soft bright locks. 
Dio. My locks are holy, dedicate to my god. 
Pen. Next, give thou me that thyrsus in thine hand. 
Dio. Take it thyself; 'tis Dionysus' wand. 
Pen. I'll bind thy body in strong iron chains. 
Dio. My god himself will loose them when he will. 
Pen. When thou invok'st him 'mid thy Bacchanals. 
Dio. Even now he is present ; he beholds me now. 
Pen. Where is he then ? Mine eyes perceive him not. 
Dio. Near me : the impious eyes may not discern him. 
Pen. Seize on him, for he doth insult our Thebes. 
Dio. I warn thee, bind me not ; the insane, the sane. 
Pen. I, stronger than thou art, say I will bind thee. 
Dio. Thou know'st not where thou art, or what thou art. 
Pen. Pentheus, A^ve's son, my sire Echion. 
Dio. Thou hast a name whose very sound is woe. 
Pen. Away, go bind him in our royal stable, 
That he may sit in midnight gloom profound : 


There lead thy dance ! But those thou hast hither led. 
Thy guilt's accomplices, we'll sell for slaves ; 
Or, silencing their noise and beating drums, 
As handmaids to the distaff set them down. 

DiO. Away then ! "Tis not well I bear such wrong; 
The vengeance for this outrage he will wreak 
Whose being thou deniest, Dionysus : 
Outraging me, ye bind him in your chains. 
Chor. Holy virgin-haunted water ! 

Ancient Achelous' daughter I 

Dirce ! in ihy crystal wave 

Thou the child of Jove didst lave. 

Tiiou, when Zeus, his awful sire, 

Snatched him from the immortal fire ; 

And locked him up within his thigh, 

With a loud but gentle cry — 

" Come, my Dithyrambus, come. 

Enter thou the masculine womb ! " 
Lo ! to Thebes I thus proclaim, 

" Twice born ! " thus thy mystic name. 

Blessed Dirce ! dost thou well 

From thy green marge to repel 

Me, and all my jocund round, 

With their ivy garlands crowned. 
Why dost fly me ? 
Why deny me .'* 

By all the joys. of wine I swear, 

Bromius still shall be my care. 

Oh, what pride I pride unforgiven 

Manifests, against high heaven 

Til' earth-born, whom in mortal birth 

'Gat Echion, son of earth ; 

Pentheus of the dragon brood, 

Not of human flesh nnd blood ; 

But portent dire, hke him whose pride, 

The Titan, all the gods defied. 

Me, great Bromius' handmaid Irue ; 

Me, with all my festive crew, 


Thralled in chains he still would keep 
In his palace dungeon deep. 

Seest thou this, O son of Jove, 
Dionysus, from above ? 
Thy rapt prophets dost thou see 
At strife with dark necessity ? 
The golden wand 
In thy right hand. 
Come, come thou down Olympus' side, 
And quell the bloody tyrant in his pride. 

Art thou holding revel now 
On Nysas' wild beast-haunted brow ? 
Is't thy Thyasus that clambers 
O'er Corycia's mountain chambers ? 
Or on Olympus, thick with wood, 
With his harp where Orpheus stood, 
And led the forest trees along, 
Led the wild beasts with his song. 

O Pieria, blessed land, 
Evius hallows thee, advancing, 
With his wild choir's mystic dancing. 

Over rapid Axius' strand 
He shall pass ; o'er Lydia's tide 
Then his whirling Maenads guide. 
Lydia, p;irent boon of health. 
Giver to man of boundless wealth ; 
Washing many a sunny mead, 
Where the prancing coursers feed. 
DiO. What ho ! what ho I ye Bacchanals ! 
Rouse and wake ! your master calls. 
Chor. Wiio is hore ? and what is he 

That calls upon our wandering train ? 
DiO. What ho ! what ho ! I call again ! 

The son of Jove and Semele. 
Chor. What ho ! what ho ! our lord and master : 
Come, with footsteps fast and faster. 
Join our revel ! Bromius, speed, 
Till quakes the earth beneath our tread. 
Alas ! alas ! 



Soon shall Pentheus' palace wall 
Shake and crumble to its fall. 
Dio. Bacchus treads the palace floor ! 

Adore him ! 
Chor. Oh I we do adore ! 

Behold! behold! 
The pillars with their weight above, 
Of ponderous marble, shake and move. 
Hark ! the trembling roof within 
Bacchus shouts his mighty din. 
Dio. The kindling lamp of the dc.rk lightning bring ! 

Fire, fire the palace of the guilty king. 
Chor. Beiiold 1 behold ! it flames ! Do ye not see, 
Around the sacred tomb of Semele, 
The blaze, that left the lightning there, 
When Jove's red thunder fired the air ? 
On the earth, supine and low, 
Your shuddering limbs, ye Maenads, throw ! 
The king, the Jove-born god, destroying all, 
In widest ruin strews the palace wall. 
Dio. O, ye Barbarian women. Thus prostrate in dismay ; 
Upon the earth ye've fallen I See ye not, as ye may. 
How Bacchus Pentheus' palace In wrath hath shaken down .-* 
Rise up I rise up I take courage — Shake off that trembling swoon. 

Chor. O light that goodliest shinest Over our mystic rite, 
In state forlorn we saw thee — Saw with what deep affright ! 

Dio. How to despair ye yielded As I boldly entered in 
To Pentheus, as if captured. Into the fatal gin. 
Chor. How could I less ? Who guards us If thou shouldst 
come to woe ? 
But how wast thou delivered From thy ungodly foe ? 

Dio. Myself, myself delivered. With ease and effort slight. 
Chor. Thy hands, had he not bound them, In halters strong 

and tight ? 

DlO. 'Twas even then I mocked him : He thought me in his 

chain ; [vain 1 

He touched me not, nor reached me ; His idle thoughts were 

In the stable stood a heifer, Where he thought he had me bound : 

Round the beast's knees his cords And cloven hoofs he wound. 


Wrath-breathing, from his body The sweat fell like a flood : 
He bit his lips in fury, While I beside who stood 
Looked on in unmoved quiet. 

As at ahat instant come, 
Shook Bacchus the strong palace, And on his mother's tomb 
Flames kindled. When he saw it, On fire the palace deeminj, 
Hither he rushed and tliither, For "water, water," screaming; 
And every slave 'gan labour, But laboured all in vain. 
The toil he soon abandoned. As though I had fled amain 
He rushed into the palace : In his hand the dark sword gleamed. 
Then, as it seemed, great Bromius — I say, but as it seemed — 
In the hall a bright light kindled. On that he rushed, and there, 
As slaying me in vengeance, Stood stabbing the thin air. 
But then the avenging Bacchus Wrought new calamities ; 
From roof to base that palace In smouldering ruin lies. 
Bitter ruing our imprisonment, With toil forspent he threw 
On earth his useless weapon. Mortal, he had dared to do 
'Gainst a god unholy battle. But I, in quiet state, 
Unheeding Pentheus' anger, Came through the palace gate. 
It seems even now his sandal Is sounding on its way : 
Soon is he here before us. And what now will he say ? 
With ease will I confront him, Ire-breathing though he stand. 
'Tis easy to a wise man To practise self-command. 

Pen. I am outraged — mocke i ! The stranger hath escap d me 
Whom I so late had bound in iron chains. 
Off, off! He is here ! — the man ? How's this ? How stands he 
B.fore our palace, as just issuing forth ? 

Dio. Stay thou thy step I Subdue thy \vrath to peace ! 

Pen. How, having burst tliy chains, hast thou come forth ? 

Dio. Said I not— heardst thou not.^ "There's one will frei 

Pen. What one? Thou speakest still words new and strange. 

Dio. He who for man plants the rich-tendrilled vine. 

Pen. Well layest thou this reproach on Dionysus. 
Without there, close and bar the towers around 1 

DlO. What ! and the gods ! O'crlcap they not all walls ? 

Pen. Wise in all wisdom save in that thou shouldst have .' 

Dio. In that I should have wisest stil am I. 
But listen first, and hear the words of him 


Who comes to thee with tidings from the mountains. 
Here will we stay. Fear not, we will not fly ! 

Mes. Pentheus, that rulest o'er this land of Thebes ! 
I come from high Cithaeron, ever white 
With the bright glittering snow's perennial I'ays. 

Pen. Why com'st thou i On what pressing mission bound ? 

Mes. I've seen the frenzied Bacchanals, who bad fled 
On their white feet, forth goaded from the land. 
I come to tell to thee and to this city 
The awful deeds they do, surpassing w onder. 
But answer first, if I shall freely say 
All that's done there, or furl my prudent speech ; 
For thy quick temper I do fear, O king, 
Thy sharp resentment and o'er-royal pride. 

Pen. Speak freely. Thou shall part unharmed by iiie ; 
Wrath were not seemly 'gainst the unoffending. 
But the more awful what thou sayst of these 
Mad women, I the more on him, who hath gulled them 
To their wild life, will wreak my just revenge. 

Mes. Mine herds of heifers I was driving, slow 
Winding their way along the mountain crags. 
When the sun pours his full beams on the earth. 
I saw three bands, three choirs of women : one 
Autonoe led, thy mother led the second, 
Agave— and the third Ino : and all 
Quietly slept, their languid limbs stretched out : 
.Some resting on the ash-irees' stem their tresses ; 
Some with their heads upon the oak-leaves thrown 
Careless, but not immodest ; as thou sayest, 
That drunken with the goblet and shrill fife 
I a the dusk woods they prowl for lawless love. 
Thy mother, as she heard the horned steers 
Deep lowing, stood up 'mid the Bacchanals 
And shouted loud to wake them from their rest. 
They from their lids shaking the freshening sleep, 
Rose upright, wonderous in their decent guise. 
The young, the old, the maiden yet unwed. 
And first they loosed their locks over their shoulders, 
Their fawn-skins fastened, wheresoe'er the clasps 


Had lost their hold, and all the dappled furs 

With serpents bound, that lolled out their lithe tongues. 

Some in their arms held kid, or wild-wolf's cub, 

Suckling it with her white milk ; all the young mothers 

Who had left their new-born babes, and stood with breasts 

Full swelling : and they all put on their crowns 

Of ivy, oak, or flowering eglantine. 

One took a thyrsus wand, and struck the rock, 

Leaped forth at once a dewy mist of water ; 

And one her rod plunged deep in the earth, and there 

The god sent up a fountain of bright wine. 

And all that longed for the white blameless draught 

Light scraping wiih their finger-ends the soil 

Had streams of exquisite milk ; the ivy wands 

Distilled from all their tops rich store of honey. 

Hadst thou been there, seeing these things, the god 
Thou now revil'st thou hadst adored with prayer. 

And we, herdsmen and shepherds, gathered around. 
And there was strife among us in our words 
Of these strange things they did, these marvellous things. 
One city-bred, a glib and practised speaker, 
Addressed us thus : " Ye that inhabit here 
The holy mountain slopes, shall we not chase 
Agave, Pentheus' mother, from the Bacchanals, 
And win the royal favour ? " Well to us 
He seemed to speak ; so, crouched in the thick bushes, 
We lay in ambush. They at the appointed hour 
Shook their wild thyrsi in the Bacchic dance, 
"lacchus" with one voice, the son of Jove, 
"Bromius" invoking. The hills danced with them ; 
And the wild beasts ; was nothing stood unmoved. 

And I leaped forth, as though to seize on her, 
Leaving the sedge where I had hidden myself. 
But she shrieked out, " Ho, my swift-footed dogs ! 
These men would hunt us down, but follow me — 
Follow me, all your hands with thyrsi armed." 
We fled amain, or by the Bacchanals 
We had been torn in pieces. They, with hands 
Unarmed with iron, rushed on the browsing steers. 


One ye might see a young and vigorous heifer 

Hold, lowing in her grasp, like prize of war. 

And some were tearing asunder the young calves ; 

And ye might see the ribs or cloven hoofs 

Hurled wildly up and down, and mangled skins 

Were hanging from the ash boughs, dropping blood. 

The wanton bulls, proud of their tossing horns 

Of yore, fell stumbling, staggering to the ground, 

Dragged down by the strong hands of thousand maidens. 

And swifter were the entrails torn away 

Than drop the lids over your royal eyeballs. 

Like birds that skim the earth, they glide along 
OVr the wide plains, that by Asopus' streams 
Shoot up for Tiiebes the rich and yellow corn ; 
And Hysia; and Erythra;, that beneath 
Cith^ron's crag dwell lowly, like fierce foes 
Invading, all with ravage waste and wide 
Confounded ; infants snatched from their sweet homes ; 
And what they threw across their shoulders, clung 
Unfastened, nor fell down to the black ground. 
No brass, nor ponderous iron : on their locks 
Was fire that burned them not. Of those they spoiled 
Some in their sudden fury rushed to arms. 
Then was a mightier wonder seen, O king : 
From them the pointed lances drew no blood. 
But they their thyrsi hurling, javelin-like, 
Drave all before, and smote their shameful backs : 
Women drave men, but not without the god. 

So did they straight return from whence they came, 
Even to the fountains, which the god made flow; 
Washed off the blood, and from their cheeks the drops 
The serpents licked, and made them bright and clean. 
This godhead then, whoe'er he be, my master I 
Receive within our city. Great in all things. 
In this I hear men say he is the greatest — 
He hath given the sorrow-soothing vine to man 
For where wine is not love will never be, 
Nor any other joy of human life. 

ChoR, I am afraid to speak the words of freedom 


Before the tyrant, yet it must be said : 
" Inferior to no god is Dionysus." 

Pen. 'Tis here then, like a wild fire, burning on, 
This Bacchic insolence, Hellas' deep disgrace. 
Off with delay I Go to the Electrian gates 
And summon all that bear the shield, and all 
The cavalry upon their prancing steeds, 
And those that couch the lance, and of the bow 
Twang the sharp string. Against these Bacchanals 
We will go war. It were indeed too much 
From women to endure what we endure. 

Dio. Thou wilt not be persuaded by my words, 
Pentheus! Yet though of thee I have suffered wrong, 
I wani thee, rise not up against the god. 
Rest thou in peace. Bromius will never brook 
Ye drive his Maenads from their mountain haunts. 

Pen. Wilt teach me ? Better fly and save thyself, 
Ere yet I wreak st.rn justice upon thee. 

Dio. Rather do sacrifice, th.m in thy wrath 
Kick 'gainst the pricks — a mortal 'gainst a god. ' 

Pen. I'll sacrifice, and in Cithaeron's glens, 
As they deserve, a hecatomb of women. 

Dio. Soon will ye fly. 'T were shame that shields of brass 
Before the Bacchic thyrsi turn in rout. 

Pen. I am bewildered by this dubious stranger ; 
Doing or suffering, he holds not his peace. 

Dio. My friend ! Thou still mayest bring this to good end. 

Pen. How so ? By being the slave of mine own slaves? 

Dio. These women — without force of arms, I'll bring them. 

Pen. Alas ! he is plotting now some wile against me ! 

DlO. But what if I could save thee by mine arts .-* 

Pen. Ye are all in league, that yo may iiold your orgie;. 

Dio. I am in a league "tis true, but with the god ! 

Pen. Bring out mine armour ! Thou, have done thy speech ' 

Dio. Ha ! wouldst thou see them seated on the mountains i 

Pen. Ay ! for the sight give thousand weight of gold. 

Dio. Why hast thou fallen upon this strange desire ? 

Pen. 'Twere grief to see them in their drunkenness. 

Dio. Yet gladly wouldst thou see, what seen would grieve thee. 

Pen. Mark well ! in silence seated 'neath the ash-trees. 


DiO. But if thou goest in secret they will scent ihee. 

Pen. Best openly, in this thou hast said well. 

Dio. But if we lead thee, wilt tliou dare the way ? 

Pen. Lead on, and swiftly ! Let no time be lost ! 
_DlO. But first enwrap thee in these linen robes. 

Pen. What, will he of a man make me a woman I 

DiO. Lest they should kill thee, seeing thee as a man. 

Pen. Well dost thou speak ; so spake the wise of old. 

DiO. Dionysus hath instructed me in this. 

Pen. How then can we best do what thou advisest ? 

Dio. I'll enter in the house, and there array thee. 

Pen. W^hat dress ? A woman's ? I am ashamed to wear it. 

Dio. Art thou not eager to behold the Maenads ? 

Pen. And what dress sayst thou I must wrap around me ? 

Dio. I'll smooth thine hair down lightly on thy brow. 

Pen. What is the second portion of my dress ? 

Dio. Robes to thy feet, a bonnet on thine head. 

Pen. Wilt thou array me then in more than this ? 

Dio. a thyrsus in thy hand, a dappled fawn-skin. 

Pen. I cannot clothe me in a woman's dress. 

Dio. Thou wilt have bloodshed, warring on the Maenads. 

Pen. 'Tis right, I must go first survey the field. 

DiO. 'Twere wiser than to hunt evil with evil. 

Pen. How pass the city, unseen of the Thebans .? 

Dio. We'll go by lone byways ; I'll lead thee safe. 

Pen. Aught better than be mocked by these loose Bacchanals. 
When we come back, we'll counsel what were best. 

Dio. Even as you will : I am here at your command. 

Pen. So let us on ; I must go forth in arms, 
Or follow the advice thou givest me. 

Dio. Women ! this man is in our net ; he goes 
To find his just doom 'mid the Bacchanals. 
Dionysus, to thy work I ihou'rt not far off; 
Vengeance is ours. Bereave him first of sense ; 
Yet be his frenzy slight. In his right mind 
He never had put on a woman's dress ; 
But now, thus shaken in his mind, he'll wear it. 
A laughing-stock I'll make him to ail Thebes, 
Led in a woman's dress through the wide city, 
For those fierce threats in which he was so £;reat. 


IJiu I must go, and Pentheus — in the garb 
Which wearing, even by his own mother's hand 
Slain, he goes down to Hades. Know he must 
Dionysus, son of Jove, among the gods 
Mightiest, yet mildest to the sons of men, 
Chor. O when, through the long night, 
With fleet foot glancing white. 
Shall I go dancing in my revelr)-. 
My neck cast back, and bare 
Unto the dewy air, 
Like sportive fawn in the green meadow's glee ? 
Lo, in her fear she springs 
Over th' encircling rings. 
Over the well-woven nets far oft" and fast ; 
W^hile swift along her track 
The huntsman cheers his pack. 
With panting toil, and fiery storm-wind haste. 
Where down the river-bank spreads the wide meadow, 

Rejoices she in the untrod solitude. 
Couches at length beneath the silent shadow 
Of the old hospitable wood. 

What is wisest ? what is fnirest, 
Of god's boons to man the rarest ? 
With the conscious conquering hand 
Above the foeman's head to stand. 
What is fairest st'll is dearest. 

Slow come, but come at length, 

In their majestic strength, 
Faithful and true, the avenging deities : 

And chastening human folly. 

And the mad pride unholy, 
Of those who to the gods bow not their knees. 

For hidden still and mute, 

As glides their printless foot. 
The impious on their winding path they hound. 

For it is ill to know, 

And it is ill to do, 
Beyond the law's inexorable bound. 


'Tis but light cost in his own power subUine 

To array the godhead, whosoe'er he be ;- 
And law is old, even as the oldest time. 
Nature's own unrepealed decree. 

What is wisest ? what is fairest. 
Of god's boons to man the rarest ? 
With the conscious conquering hand 
Above the foeman's head to stand. 
What is fairest still is rarest. 

Who hath 'scaped the turbulent sea, 
And reached the haven, happy he ! 
Happy he whose toils are o'er, 
In the race of wealth and power ! 
This one here, and that one there, 
Passes by, and everywhere 
Still expectant thousands over 
Thousand hopes are seen to hover. 
Some to mortals end in bliss ; 

Some have already fled away : 
Happiness alone is his 

That happy is to-day. 

Dio. Thou art mad to see that which thou shouldst not see, 
And covetous of that thou shouldst not covet. 
Pentheus ! I say, come forth ! Appear before me, 
Clothed in the Bacchic Maenads' womanly dress ; 
Spy on thy mother and her holy crew. 
Come like in form to one of Cadmus' daughters. 

Pen. Ha ! now indeed two suns I seem to see, 
A double Thebes, two seven-gated cities ; 
Thou, as a bull, seemest to go before me, 
And horns have grown upon thine head. Art thou 
A beast indeed ? Thou seem'st a very bull. 

Dio. The god is with us ; unpropiiious once, 
But now at truce : now seest thou what thou shouldst see ? 

Pen. What see 1 ? Is not that the step of Ino ? 
And is not Agave there, my mother ? 

Dio. Meihinks 'tis even they whom thou behola'at ; 



But, lo ! this tress hath strayed out of its place, 
Not as I braided it, beneath thy bonnet. 

Pen. Tossing it this way now, now tossing that, 
In Bacchic glee, I have shaken it from its place. 

Dio. But we, whose cliarge it is to watch o'er thee. 
Will braid it up again. Lift up thy head. 

Pen. Braid as thou wilt, we yield ourselves to thee. 

DlO. Thy zone is loosened, and thy robe's long folds 
Droop outward, nor conceal thine ankles now. 

Pen. Around my right foot so it seems, yet sure 
Around the other it sits close and well. 

Dio. Wilt thou not hold me for thy best of friends. 
Thus strangely seeing the coy Bacchanals ? 

Pen. The thyrsus — in my right hand shall I hold it ? 
Or thus am I more like a Bacchanal ? 

Dio. In thy right hand, and wiih thy right foot raise it. 
I praise the change of mind now come o'er thee. 

Pen. Could I not now bear up upon my shoulders 
Cithaeron's crag, with all the Bacchanals ? 

Dio. Thou couldst if 'twere thy will. In thy right mind 
Erewhile thou wast not ; now thou art as thou shouldst be. 

Pen. Shall I take levers, pluck it up with my hands, 
Or thrust mine arm or shoulder 'neath its base ? 

Dio. Destroy thou not the dwellings of the nymphs, 
The seats where Pan sits piping in his joy. 

Pen. Well hast thou said ; by force we conquer not 
These women. I'll go hide in yonder ash. 

Dio. Within a fatal ambush wilt ihou hide thee, 
Stealing, a treacherous spy, upon the Maenads. 

Pen. And now I seem to see them there like birds 
Couching on their soft beds amid the fern. 

Dio. Art thou not therefore set as watchman o'er th<.m ? 
Thou'lt seize them — if they do not seize thee first. 

Pen. Lead me triumphant through the land of Thebes I 
I, only I, have dared a deed like this. 

Dio. Thou art the city's champion, thou alone. 
Therefore a strife thou wot'st not of awaits thee. 
Follow me ! thy preserver goes before thee ; 
Another takes thee hence. 


Pen. Mean'st thou my mother ? 

Dio. Aloft shalt thou be borne. 
Pen. O the soft carriage ! 

Dio. In thy mother's hands. 

Pen. Wilt make me thus luxurious ? 

Dio. Strange luxury, indeed ! 
Pen. 'Tis my desert. 

Dio. Thou art awful ! — awful ! Doomed to awful end ! 
Thy glory shall soar up to the high heavens ! 

Stretch forth thine hand, Agave ! — ye her kin, 
Daughters of Cadmus ! To a terrible grave 
Lead I this youth! Myself shall win the prize — 
Bromius and I ; the event will show the rest. 

Chor. Ho ! fleet dogs and furious, to the mountains, ho ! 
Where their mystic revels Cadmus' daughters keep. 

Rouse them, goad them out, 
'Gainst him, in woman's mimic garb concealed. 
Gazer on the Maenads in their dark rites unrevealed. 
First his mother shall behold him on his watch below. 
From the tall tree's trunk or from the wild scaur steep ; 

Fiercely will she shout — 
" Who the spy upon the Maenads on the rocks that roam 
To the mountain, to the mountain, Bacchanals, has come.'"' 
Who hath borne him ? 
He is not of woman's blood — 

The lioness ! 
Or the Lybian Gorgon's brood ? 
Come, vengeance, come, display thee ! 
With thy bright sword array thee ! 
The bloody sentence wreak 
On the dissevered neck 
Of him who god, law, justice hath not known, 
Echion's earth-born son. 

He, with thought unrighteous and unholy pride, 

'Gainst Bacchus and his mother, their orgies' mystic mirth 

Still holds his frantic strife, 
And sets him up against the god, deeming it light 

To vanquish the invincible of might. 

B 2 


Hold thou fast the pious mind; so, only so, shall glide 
In peace with gods above, in peace with men on earth, 

Thy smooth painless life. 
I admire not, envy not, who would be otherwise : 
Mine be still the glory, mine be still the prize, 
By night and day 
To live of the immortal gods in awe ; 

Who fears them not 
Is but the outcast of all law. 

Come, vengeance, come display thee ! 
With thy bright sword array thee ! 
The bloody sentence wreak 
On the dissevered neck 
Of him who god, law, justice has not known, 
Echion's earth-bom son. 

Appear ! appear ! 
Or as the stately steer ! 
Or many-headed dragon be ! 
Or the fire-breathing lion, terrible to see. 
Come, Bacchus, come 'gainst the hunter of the Bacchanals, 

Even now, now as he falls 
Upon the Maenads' fatal herd beneath, 
With smiling brow. 
Around him throw n 

The inexorable net of death. 

Mes. O house mo:t prosperous once throughout all Hellas ! 
House of the old Sidonian ! — in this land 
Who sowed the dragon's serpent's earth-bom harvest — 
How I deplore thee ! I a slave, for still 
Grieve for their master's sorrows faithful slaves. 

Chor. What's this ? Aught new about the Bacchanals ? 
Mes. Pentheus hath perished, old Echion's son. 
Chor. King Bromius, thou art indeed a mighty god ! 
Mes. What sayst thou ? How is this ? Rejoicest thou, 

woman, in my master's awful fate ? 

CllOR. Light chants the stranger her barbarous strains ; 

1 cower not in fear for the menace of chains. 

Mes. All Thebes thus void of courage deemest thou ? 


ChOR. O Dionysus ! Dionysus ! Thebes 
Hath o'er me now no power. 

Mes. 'Tis pardonable, yet it is not well, 
Woman, in others' miseries to rejoice. 

Chor. Tell me, then, by what fate died the unjust — 
The man, the dark contriver of injustice ? 

Mes. Therapnas having left the Theban city, 
And passed along Asopus' winding shore. 
We 'gan to climb Cithaeron's upward steep — 
Pentheus and I (I waited on my lord), 
And he that led us on our quest, the stranger — 
And first we crept along a grassy glade, 
With silent footsteps, and with silent tongues. 
Slow moving, as to see, not being seen. 
There was a rock-walled glen, watered by a streamlet, 
And shadowed o'er with pines ; the Maenads there 
Sate, all their hands busy with pleasant toil ; 
And some the leafy thyrsus, that its ivy 
Had dropped away, were garlanding anew ; 
Like fillies some, unharnessed from the yoke ; 
Chanted alternate all the Bacchic hymn. 
Ill-fated Pentheus, as he scarce could see 
That womanly troop, spake thus : " Where we stand, stranger. 
We see not well the unseemly Maenad dance: 
But, mounting on a bank, or a tall tree, 
Clearly shall I behold their deeds of shame." 

A wonder then I saw that stranger do. 
He seized an ash-tree's high heaven-reaching stem. 
And dragged it down, dragged, dragged to the low earth ; 
And like a bow it bent. As a curved wheel 
Becomes a circle in the turner's lathe, 
The stranger thus that mountain tree bent down 
To the earth, a deed of more than mortal strength. 
Then seating Pentheus on those ash-tree boughs, 
Upward he let it rise, steadily, gently 
Through his hands, careful lest it shake him off; 
And slowly rose it upright to its height, 
Bearing my master seated on its ridge. 
There was he seen, rather than saw the Masnads, 


More visible he could not be, seated aloft. 

The stranger from our view had vanished quite. 

Then from the heavens a voice, as it should seem 

Dionysus, shouted loud, " Behold ! I bring, 

O maidens, him that you and me, our rites, 

Our orgies laughed to scorn ; now take your vengeance." 

And as he spake, a light of holy fire 

Stood up, and blazed from earth straight up to heaven. 

Silent the air, silent the verdant grove 

Held its still leaves ; no sound of living thing. 

They, as their ears just caught the half-heard voice. 

Stood up erect, and rolled their wondering eyes. 

Again he shouted. But when Cadmus' daughters 

Heard manifest the god's awakening voice, 

Forth rushed they, fleeter than the wingdd dove. 

Their nimble feet quick coursing up and down. 

Agave first, his mother, then her kin, 

The Maenads, down the torrent's bed, in the grove. 

From crag to crag they leaped, mad with the god. 

And first with heavy stones they hurled at him, 

Climbing a rock in front ; the branches some 

Of the ash-tree darted ; some like javelins 

Sent their sharp thyrsi through the sounding air, 

Pentheus their mark : but yet they struck him not ; 

His height still baffled all their eager wrath. 

There sat the wretch, helpless in his despair. 

The oaken boughs, by lightning as struck off, 

Roots torn from the earth, but with no iron wedge, 

They hurled, but their wild labours all were vain. 

Agave spake, " Come all, and stand around, 

And grasp the tree, ye Maenads ; soon we will seize 

The beast that rides theron. He will ne'er betray 

The mysteries of our god." A thousand hands 

Were on the ash, and tore it from the earth : 

And he that sat aloft, down, headlong, down 

Fell to the ground, with thousand piteous shrieks, 

Pentheus, for well he knew his end was near. 

His mother first began the sacrifice. 

And fell on him. His bonnet from his hair 


He threw, that she might know and so not slay him, 
The sad Agave. And he said, her cheek 
Fondling, " I am thy child, thine own, my mother ! 
Pentheus, whom in Echion's house you bare. 
Have mercy on me, mother I For his sins, 
Whatever be his sins, kill not thy son." 
She, foaming at the mouth, her rolling eyeballs 
Whirling around, in her unreasoning reason, 
By Bacchus all possessed, knew, heeded not. 
She caught him in her arms, seized his right hand, 
And, with her feet set on his shrinking side, 
Tore out the shoulder — not with her own strength : 
The god made easy that too cruel deed. 
And I no laboured on the other side, 
Rending the flesh : Autonoe, all the rest, 
Pressed fiercely on, and there was one wild din — 
He groaning deep, while he had breath to groan, 
They shouting triumph ; and one bore an arm, 
One a still-sandalled foot ; and both his sides 
Lay open, rent. Each in her bloody hand 
Tossed wildly to and fro lost Pentheus' limbs. 
The trunk 1 ly far aloof, 'neath the rough rocks 
Part, part amid the forest's thick-strewn leaves, 
Not easy to be found. The wretched head, 
Which the mad mother, seizing in her hands, 
Had on a thyrsus fixed, she bore aloft 
All o'er Cithaercn, as a mountain lion's, 
Leading her sisters in their Maenad dance. 
And she comes vaunting her ill-fated chase 
Unto these walls, invoking Bacchus still, 
Her fellow-hunter, partner in her prey, 
Her triumph — triumph soon to end in tears ! 
I fled the sight of that dark tragedy. 
Hastening, ere yet Agave reached the palace. 
Oh ! to be reverent, to adore the gods, 
This is the noblest, wisest course of man, 
Taking dread warning from this dire event. 
Chor. Dance and sing 

In Bacchic ring, 



Shout, shout the fate, the fate of gloom, 
Of Pentheus, from the dragon born ; 
He the woman's garb hath worn, 
Following the bull, the harbinger, that led him to his doom. 
O ye Theban Bacchanals ! 
Attune ye now the hymn victorious, 

The hymn all glorious, 
To the tear, and to the groan ! 

O game of glory ! 
To bathe the hands besprent and gory, 

In the blood of her own son. 
But I behold Agave, Pentheus' mother, 
Nearing the palace with distorted eyes. 
Hail we the ovation of the Evian god. 
Aga. O ye Asian Bacchanals ! 
ChoR. Who is she on us who calls? 
Aga. From the mountains, lo ! we bear 
To the palace gate 
Our new-slain quarry fair. 
Chor. I see, I see ! and on thy joy I wait. 
Aga. Without a net, without a snare, 
The hon's cub, I took him there 
Chor. In the wilderness, or where ? 
Aga. Cithaeron — 

Chor. Of Cithaeron what ? 

Aga. Gave him to slaughter. 

Chor. O blest Agave ! 

Aga. In thy song extol me, 

Chor. Who struck him first .? 

Aga. Mine, mine, the glorious lot. 

Chor. Who else ? 
Aga. Of Cadmus — 

Chor. What of Cadmus' daughter ? 

Aga. With me, with me, did all the race 

Hound the prey. 
Chor. O fortunate chase ! 

Aga. The banquet share with me 1 
Chor. Alas ! what shall our banquet be ? 
Aga. How delicate the kid and young I 


The thill locks have but newly sprung 
Over his forehead fair. 
Chor. Tis beauteous as the tame beasts' cherished hair, 
Aga. Bacchus, hunter known to fame ! 

Did he not our Maenads bring 
On the track of this proud game ? 
A mighty hunter is our king ! 
Praise me ! praise me! 
Chor. Praise I not thee 1 

Aga. Soon with the Thebans all, the hymn of praise 
Pentheus my son will to his mother raise: 
For she the lion prey hath won, 
A noble deed and nobly done. 
Chor. Dost thou rejoice .'' 

Aga. Ay, with exulting voice 

My great, great deed I elevate, 
Glorious as great. 
Chor. Sad woman, to the citizens of Thebes 
Now show the conquered prey thou bearest hither. 

Aga. Ye that within the high-towered Theban city 
Dwell, come and gaze ye all upon our prey. 
The mighty beast by Cadmus' daughter ta'en ; 
Nor with Thessalian sharp-pointed javelins, 
Nor nets, but with the white and delicate palms 
Of our own hands. Go ye, and make your boast, 
Trusting to the spear-maker's useless craft : 
We with these hands have ta'en our prey, and rent 
The mangled limbs of this gi im beast asunder. 

Where is mine aged sire .? Let him draw near ! 
And where is my son Pentheus ? Let him mount 
On the broad stairs that rise before our house ; 
And on the triglyph nail this lion's head, 
That I have brought him from our splendid chase. 

Cad. Follow me, follow, bearing your sad burthen, 
My servants— Pentheus' body — to our house ; 
The body that with long and weary search 
I found at length in lone Cithaeron's glens; 
Thus torn, not lying in one place, but wide 
Scattered amid the dark and tangled thicket. 


Already, as I entered in the city 
With old Tiresins, from the Bacchanals, 
I heard the fearful doings of my daughter. 
And back returning to the mountain, bear 
My son, thus by the furious Maenads slain. 
Her who Actason bore to Aristaeus, 
Autonoe, I saw, and Ino with her 
Still in the thicket goaded with wild madness. 
And some one said that on her dancing feet 
Agave had come hither — true he spoke ; 
I see her now — O most unblessed sight ! 
Aga. Father, 'tis thy peculiar peerless boast 

Of womanhood the noblest t' have begot — 

Me — me the noblest of that noble kin. 

For I the shuttle and the distaff left 

For mightier deeds — wild beasts with mine own hands 

To capture. Lo ! I bear within mine arms 

These glorious trophies, to be hung on high 

Upon thy house : receive them, O my father ! 

Call thy friends to the banquet feast ! Blest thou ! 

Most blest, through us who have wrought such splendid deeds. 
Cad. Measureless grief ! Eye may not gaze on it, 

The slaughter wrought by those most wretched hands. 

Oh ! what a sacrifice before the gods ! 

All Thebes, and us, thou callest to the feast. 

Justly — too justly, hath King Bromius 

Destroyed us, fatal kindred to our house. 
Aga. Oh ! how morose is man in his old age, 

And sullen in his mien. Oh ! were my son 

More like his mother, mighty in his hunting, 

When he goes forth among the youth of Thebes 

Wild beasts to chase ! But he is great alone, 

In warring on the gods. We two, my sire. 

Must counsel him against his evil wisdom. 

Where is he ? Who will call him here before us 

That he may see me in my happiness .'' 

Cad. Woe ! woe ! When ye have sense of what ye have 

With what deep sorrow, sorrow ye ! To th* end. 


Oh ! could ye be, only as now ye are, 
Nor happy were ye deemed, nor miserable. 

Aga. What is not well ? For sonow what the cause ? 

Cad. First lift thine eyes up to the air around. 

Aga. Behold! Why thus commandest me to gaze? 

Cad. Is all the same? Appears there not a change? 

Aga. 'Tis brighter, more translucent than before. 

Cad. Is there the same elation in thy soul ? 

Aga. I know not what thou menn'st; but I become 
Conscious — my changing mind is settling down. 

Cad. Canst thou attend, and plainly answer me ? 

Aga. I have forgotten, father, all I said. 

Cad. Unto whose bed wert thou in wedlock given ? 

Aga. Echion's, him they call the Dragon-born. 

Cad. Who was the son to thy husband thou didst bear ? 

Aga. Pentheus, in commerce 'twixt his sire and me. 

Cad. And whose the head thou boldest in thy hnnds ? 

Aga. a lion's ; thus my fellow-hunters said. 

Cad. Look at it straight : to look on't is no toil. 

Aga. What see I ? Ha ! what's this within my hands ? 

Cad. Look on't again, again : thou wilt know too well. 

Aga. I see the direst woe that eye may see. 

Cad. The semblance of a lion bears it now ? 

Aga, No : wretch, wretch that I am : 'tis Pentheus' head ! 

Cad. Evenereyet recognized thou might'st have mourned him. 

Aga. Who murdered him ? How came he in my hands ? 

Cad. Sad truth ! Untimely dost thou ever come ! 

Aga. Speak ; for my heart leaps with a boding throb. 

Cad. 'Twas thou didst slay him, thou and thine own sisters. 

Aga. Where died he ? In his palace ? In what place ? 

Cad. There where the dogs Acta^on tore in pieces. 

Aga. Why to Cithceron went the ill-fated man ? 

Cad. To mock the god, to mock the orgies there. 

Aga. But how and wherefore had we thither gone ? 

Cad. In madness I — the whole city maddened with thee. 

Aga. Dionysus hath destroyed us I Late I learn it. 

Cad. Mocked with dread mockery ; no god ye held him. 

Aga. Father ! Where's the dear body of my son ? 

Cad. I bear it here, not found without much toil. 


Aga. Are all the limbs together, sound and whole ? 
And Pentheus, shared he in my desperate fur} ? 

Cad. Like thee he was, he worshipped not the god. 
All, therefore, are enwrapt in one dread doom. 
You,' he, in whom hath perished all our house, 
And I who, childless of male offspring, see 
This single fruit — O miserable ! — of thy womb 
Thus shamefully, thus lamentably dead — 
Thy son, to whom our house looked up, the stay 
Of all our palace he, my daughter's son. 
The awe of the whole city. None would dare 
Insult the old man when thy fearful face 
He saw, well knowing he would pay the penalty. 
Unhonoured now, I am driven from out mine home; 
Cadmus the great, who all the race of Thebes 
Sowed in the earth, and reaped that harvest fair. 
O best beloved of men, thou art now no more, 
Yet still art dearest of my children thou ! 
No more, this grey beard fondling with thine hand, 
Wilt call me thine own grandsire, thou sweet child. 
And fold me round and say, " Who doth not honour thee .'* 
Old man, who troubles or afflicts thine heart ? 
Tell me, that I may 'venge thy wrong, my father ! " 
Now wretchedest of men am I. Thou pitiable — 
More pitiable thy mother — sad thy kin. 

if there be who scorneth the great gods. 

Gaze on this death, and know that there are gods. 

Chor. Cadmus, I grieve for thee. Thy daughter's son 
Hath his just doom — just, but most piteous. 

Aga. Father, thou seest ho a- all is changed with me ; 
/ atn no more the Mcenad dancing blithe, 

1 am but the feeble, fond, and desolate mother. 
I know, I see— ah, knowledge best unknown / 
Sight best unseen .' — / see, I know my son, 
Mine only son ! — alas ! no more my son. 

O beauteous limbs, that in my womb I bare ! 
O head, that on my lap wast wont to sleep ! 
O lips, that from my bosom's swelling fount 
Drained the delicious and soft-oozing milk ! 


O hands ^ whose first use was to fondle me ! 

O feet, that were so light to run to me ! 

O gracious form^ that men wondering beheld ! 

O haughty brow, before which Thebes bowed down ! 

O majesty ! O strength ! by mine own hands — ■ 

By mine own murderous, sacrilegious hands — 

Torn, rent asunder, scattered, cast abroad ! 

O thou hard god / was there no other way 

To visit us ? Oh ! if the son must die. 

Must it be by the hand of his own mother ? 

If the impious mother must atone her sin. 

Must it be but by jnurdering her own son f 

Dio. Now hear ye all, Thebes' founders, what is woven 
By the dread shuttle of the unerring Fates. 
Thou, Cadmus, father of ihis earth-born race, 
A dragon shalt become ; thy wife shalt take 
A brutish form, and sink into a serpent, 
Harmonia, Ares' daughter, whom thou wedd'st, 
Though mortal, as Jove's oracle declares. 
Thou in a car by heifers drawn shalt ride, 
And with thy wife, at the Barbarians' head : 
And many cities with their countless host 
Shall they destroy, but when they dare destroy 
The shrine of Loxias, back shall they return 
In shameful flight ; but Ares guards Harmonia 
And thee, and bears you to the Isles of the Blest. 

This say I, of no mortal father born, 
Dionysus, son of Jove. Had ye but known 
To have been pious when ye might, Jove's son 
Had been your friend ; ye had been happy still. 

Aga. Dionysus, we implore thee ! We have sinned ! 

DiO. Too late ye say so ; when ye should, ye would not. 

Aga. That know we now ; but thou'rt extreme in vengeance. 

DiO. Was I not outraged, being a god, by you ? 

Aga. The gods should not be like to men in wrath, 

DiO. This Jove, my father, long hath granted me. 

Aga. Alas, old man ! Our exile is decreed. 

DlO. Why then delay ye the inevitable? 

Cad, O child, to what a depth of woe we have fallen ! 


Most wretched thou, and all thy kin beloved ! 

I too to the Barbarians must depart, 

An aged denizen. For there's a prophecy, 

'Gainst Hellas a Barbaric mingled host 

Harmonia leads, my wife, daughter of Ares. 

A dragon I, with dragon nature fierce, 

Shall lead the stranger spearmen 'gainst the altars 

And tombs of Hellas, nor shall cease my woes — 

Sad wretch I— not even when I have ferried o'er 

Dark Acheron, shall I repose in peace. 

Aga. Father I to exile go I without thee ? 

Cad. Why dost thou clasp me ia thine arms, sad child, 
A drone among the bees, a swan worn out ? 

Aga. Where shall I go, an exile from my country ? 

Cad. I know not, child ; thy sire is a feeble aid. 

Aga. Farewell, mine home ! Farewell, my native Thebes I 
My bridal chamber ! Banished, 1 go forth. 

Cad. To the house of Aristaeus go, my child. 

Aga. I wait for thee, my father ! 

Cad, I for thee ! 

And for thy sisters. 

Aga. Fearfully, fearfully, this deep disgrace. 
Hath Dionysus brought upon our race. 

Dio. Fearful on me the wrong that ye had done ; 
Unhonoured was my name in Thebes alone. 

Aga. Father, farewell ! 

Cad. Farewell, my wretched daughter 1 

Aga. So lead me forth — my sisters now to meet, 
Sad fallen exiles. 

Let me, let me go, 
Where cursed Ciihseron ne'er may see me more. 
Nor I the cursed Cithaeron see again. 
Where there's no memory of the thyrsus dance. 
The Bacchic orgies be the care of others. 



Mercury. Xutiius. 

Ion. Old Man. 

Chorus of Creusa's Femat.e Servant of Creusa. 

Attendants. PvTHtAN Priestess. 

Creusa. Minerva. 

SCEXE— The Vestibule of Apollo's Temple at Delphi. 


By a celestial dame, was he who bears 

On brazen shoulders the incumbent load 

Of yonder starry heaven, where dwell the gods 

From anfcient times, illustrious Atlas, sire 

To Maia, and from her I, Hermes, spring, 

The faithful messenger of mighty Jove. 

Now to this land of Delphi am I come, 

Where, seated on the centre of tlie world, 

His oracles Apollo to mankind 

Discloses, ever chaunting both events 

Present and those to come. Of no small note, 

In Greece, there is a city which derives 

Its name from Pallas, by her golden spear 

Distinguished. Phoebus in this realm compressed 

With amorous violence Erectheus' daughter, 

Creusa, underneath those craggy rocks 

North of Minerva's citadel, the kings 

Of Athens call them Macra. She endured. 

Without the knowledge of her sire (for such 

Was the god's will), the burden of her womb : 


But at the stated time, when in the palace 

She had brought forth a son, she to that cave, 

Where she th' embraces of the god hath known, 

Conveyed and left the child, to death exposed, 

Lodged in the hollow of an orbed chest, 

Observant of the customs handed down 

By her progenitors, and Ericthonius, 

That earth-born monarch of her native land, 

Whom Pallas, daughter of imperial Jove, 

Placing two watchful dragons for his guard, 

To ihe three damsels from Agiaulos sprung 

Entrusted. Hence, among Erectheus' race, 

E'en from those times, an usai:e hath prevailed 

Of nurturing, 'midst serpents wrought in gold, 

Their tender progeny. Creusa left, 

Wrapt round her infant, whom she thus to death 

Abandoned, all the ornaments she had. 

Then this request, on my fraternal love 

Depending, Phoebus urged : " My brother, go 

To those blest children of their native soil, 

The famed Athenians (for full well thou know'st 

Minerva's city), from the hollow rock 

Taking this new-born infant, and the chest 

In which he lies, with fillets swathed around, 

Convey to my oracular abode, 

And place him in the entrance of my fane : 

What still is left undone my care shall add : 

For know he is my son." I, to confer 

A kindness on my brother Phoebus, bore 

The wicker chest away ; and, having oped 

Its cover that the infant might be seen. 

Just nt the threshold of this temple lodged. 

But when the fiery coursers of the sun 

Rushed from heaven's eastern gate in swift career. 

Entering the mansion whence the god deals forth 

His oracles, a priestess on the child 

Fixed her indignant eyes, and wondered much 

What shameless nymph of Delphi could presume 

By stealth to introduce her spurious brood 

ION. 49 

Into Apollo's house. She was inclined 

At first to cast him from the sacred threshold ; 

But, by compassion moved, the cruel deed 

Forbore, and, with paternal love, the god 

Aided the child, nor from his hallowed mansion 

Allowed him to be banished : him she took 

And nurtured, though she knew not from what mother 

He sprung, or that Apollo was his sire. 

To both his parents, too, the boy himself 

Remained a stranger. While he yet was young, 

Around the blazing altars, whence he fed, 

Playful he roamed ; but after he attained 

Maturer years, the Delphic citizens 

As guardian of the treasures of the god 

Employed, and found him faithful to his trist : 

Still in this fane he leads a holy life. 

Meanwhile Creusa, who the infant bore, 

Wedded to Xuthus : fortune this event 

Thus brought to pass ; a storm of war burst forth 

'Twixt the Athenian race and them who dwell 

In Chalcis, on Euboea's stormy coast. 

In concert with the former having toiled. 

And joined in the destruction of their foes, 

A royal bride, Creusa, he obtained, 

Though not in Athens but Achaia born, 

The son of ^olus, who sprung from Jove. 

He and his consort liave been childless long, 

And therefore to these oracles of Phoebus 

Are come in quest of issue. This event 

The god hath caused to happen, nor forgets 

His son, as some suppose; for he, on Xuthus, 

Will, at his entering this prophetic dome, 

Freely bestow, and call the stripling his ; 

That when he comes to the maternal house, 

Creusa may acknowledge him she bore. 

While her amour with Phoebus rests concealed, 

And this her son obtains th' inheritance 

Of his maternal ancestors : through Greece 

Th' immortal father hath decreed his son 


Shall be called Ion, the illustrious founder 
Of Asiatic realms. But I must go 
Among the laurel's shadowy groves, and learn 
From this young prophet what the fates ordain ; 
For I behold Apollo's son come forth, 
To hang the branches of the verdant bay 
Before the portals of the fane. Now first 
Of all the gods I hail him by his name, 
The name of Ion which he soon shall benr. 

{^Exit Mercury. 
Ion. Now the resplendent chariot of the sun 
Shines o'er the earth : from its ethereal fires, 
Beneath the veil of sacred night, the stars 
Conceal themselves. Parnassus' cloven ridge, 
Too steep for human footsteps to ascend, 
Receives the lustre of its orient beams, 
And through the world reflects them ; while the smoke 
Of fragrant myrrh ascends Apollo's roof; 
The Delphic priestess on the holy tripod 
Now takes her seat, and to the listening sons 
Of Greece, those truths in mystic notes unfolds, 
With which the gods inspire her labouring breast. 
But, O ye Delphic ministers of Phoebus, 
Now to Castalia's silver fount repair. 
And when ye have performed the due ablutions. 
Enter the temple ; let no word escape 
Your lips of evil omen, mildly greet 
Each votarj', and expound the oracles • 

In your own native language. But ti.e toils 
Which I from childhood to the present hour 
Have exercised, with laureate sprays and wreaths 
Worn at our high solemnities, to cleanse 
The vestibule of Phoebus, I repeat, 
Sprinkling the pavement with these lustral drops, 
And with my shafts will I repel the flocks 
Of birds who taint the offerings of the god. 
For like a friendless orphan, who ne'er knew 
A mother's or a father's fostering care, 
In Phoebus' shrine, which nurtured mc, I scrve> 

ION. 51 


In recent verdure ever gay, 

Hail, O ye scions of the bay. 
Which sweep Apollo's fane ; 

Cropt from the god's adjacent bowers. 

Where rills bedew the vernal flowers, 
And with perpetual streams refresh the plain ; 

The sacred myrtle here is found, 
Whose branches o'er the consecrated ground 

I wave, as day by day ascends 
The sun with rapid wing, 

Waking to toil which never ends. 
And zealous in the service of my king. 
O Pa:an, Paean, from Latona sprung, 

Still mayst thou flourish blest and young ! 


My labours with renown shall meet; 

O Phoebus, the prophetic seat 
Revering, at thy fane 

A joyful minister I stand, 

Serving with an officious hand 
No mortal, but the blest immortal train. 

Nor by these glorious toils opprest 
Am I ignobly covetous of rest ; 

For dread Apollo is my sire ; 
To him, to him I owe 

My being, nurtured in his choir. 
And in the fostering god a father know. 
O Paean, P^ean, from Latona sprung, 

Still mayst thou flourish blest and young ! 

But from this painful task will I desist, 
And with the laurel cease to sweep the ground : 
Next, from a golden vase, is it my office 
To pour the waters of Castalia's fount. 
Sprinkling its lustral drops : for I am free 
From lust and its pollutions. May I serve 


Apollo ever thus, or cease to serve him 
When I some happier fortune shall attain ! 
But, ha ! the birds are here, and leave iheir nests 
Upon Parnassus : wing not to this dome 
Your flight, and on the gilded battlements 
Forbear to perch. My arrows shall transpierce thee, 
Herald of Jove, O thou, whose hooked beak 
Subdues the might of all the feathered tribes. 
But lo ! another comes ! The swan his course 
Steers to the altar. Wilt thou not retire 
Hence with those purple feet ? Apollo's lyre, 
In concert warbling with thy dulcet strains, 
Shall not redeem thee from my bow : direct 
Thy passage to the Delian lake — obey. 
Or streaming blood shall interrupt thy song. 
But what fresh bird approaches .'' Would she build 
Under these pinnacles a nest to hold 
Her callow brood .'' Soon shall the whizzing shaft 
Repel thee. Wilt thou not comply ? Where Alpheus 
Winds through the channeled rocks his passage, go. 
And rear thy twittering progeny, or dwell 
Amid the Isthmian groves, that Piioebus' gifts 
And temples no defilement may receive. 
For I am loth to take away your lives, 
Ye winged messengers, who to mankind 
Announce the vvill of the celestial powers. 
But I on Phoebus must attend, performing 
The task assigned me with unwearied zeal, 
And minister to those who give me food. 

Chorus, Ion. 

Chor. 'Tis not in Athens only that the fane 
Where duteous homage to the gods is paid, 
Or altar for Agyian Phoebus reared 
With many a stately column is adorned ; 
But in these mansions of Latona's son 
From those twin deities portrayed there beams 
An equal splendour on the dazzled sight. 

1st Semichor. See there Jove's son who with his 
golden falchion 

ION. 53 

Slays the Leruasan Hydra ! O my friend, 
Observe him well. 

2nd Semichor. I do. 

1st Semichor. Another stands 

Beside him brandishing a kindled toich. 

2nd Semichor. He whose exploits I on my woof described ? 

1st Semichor. The noble lolaus, who sustained 
Alcides' shield, and in those glorious toils 
Was the sole partner with the son of Jove. 
Him also mark who on a winged steed 
Is seated, how with forceful arm he smites 
The triple-formed Chimaera breathing fire. 

2nd Semichor. With thee these eyes retrace each varied 

1st Semichor. Look at the giants' conflict with the gods 
Depictured on the wall. 

2nd Semichor. There, there, my friends. 

1st Seiniichor. Behold'st thou her who 'gainst Enceladus 
The dreadful ^gis brandishes ? 

2nd Semichor. I see 

Pallas, my goddess. 

1st Semichor. And the forkM flames, 
With which th' impetuous thunderbolt descends, 
Hurled from the skies by Jove's unerring arm ? 

2nd Semichor. I see, I see ! Its livid flashes smite 
Mimas the foe, and with his pliant thyrsus 
Another earth-born monster Bacchus slays. 

Chor. On thee I call, O thou who in this fane 
Art stationed : is it lawful to advance 
Into the inmost sanctuary's recess 
With our feet bare ? 

Ion. This cannot be allowed. 

Ye foreign dames. 

Chor. Wilt thou not answer me ? 

Ion. What information wish ye to receive ? 

Chor. Say, is it true that Phoebus' temple stands 
On the world's centre ? 

Ion. 'Tis with garlands decked, 

And Gorgons are placed round it. 

Chor. So fame tells. 


Ion. If ye before these portals have with fire 
Consumed the salted cates, and wish to know 
Aught from Apollo, to this altar come ; 
But enter not the temple's dread recess 
Till sheep are sacrificed. 

Chor. I comprehend thee; 

Nor will we break the god's established laws. 
But with the pictures which are here without 
Amuse our eyes. 

Ion, Ye may survey them all 

At leisure. 

Chor. Hither have our rulers sent us, 
The sanctuary of Phoebus to behold. 

Ion. Inform me to what household ye belong. 

Chor. Minerva's city is the place where dwell 
Our sovereigns. But lo ! she herself appears 
To whom the questions thou hast asked relate. 

Creusa, Ion, Chorus. 

Ion. Thy countenance, whoe'er thou be, O woman, 
Proves thou art noble, and of gentle manners : 
For by their looks we fail not to discern 
Those of exalted birth. But with amazement. 
Closing those eyes, thou strik'st me, and with tears 
Largely bedewing those ingenuous cheeks, 
Since thou hast seen Apollo's holy fane. 
Whence can such wayward grief arise .'' The sight 
Of this auspicious sanctuary, which gives 
Delight to others, causes thee to weep. 

Cre. Stranger, you well may wonder at my tears, 
For since I viewed these mansions of the god, 
I have been thinking of a past event ; 
And thou^^h myself indeed am here, my soul 
Remains at home. O ye unhappy dames ! 
O most audacious outrages committed 
By the immortal gods ! To whom for justice 
Can we appeal, if, through the wrongs of those 
Who rule the world with a despotic power, 
We ptrish ? 

ION. 55 

Ion. What affliction unrevealed 

Makes thee despond ? 

Cre. None. I have dropped the subject. 

What follows I suppress, nor must you seek 
I'o learn aught farther. 

Ion. But say, who thou art. 

Whence cam'st thou, in what region weit thou born, 
And by what name must we distinguish thee ? 

Cre. Creusa is my name, my sire Erectheus, 
In Athens first I drew my vital breath. 

Ion. O thou in that famed city who resid'st, 
And by illustrious parents hast been nurtured, 
How much do I revere thee ! 

Cre. I thus far, 

But in nought else, am blest. 

Ion. I by the gods 

Conjure thee, answer, if the world speak truth. 

Cre. What question's this you would propose, O stranger? 
I wish to learn. 

Ion. Sprang the progenitor 

Of thy great father from the teeming earth ? 

Cre. Thence Ericthonius ; but my noble race 
Avails me not. 

Ion. And did Minerva rear 

The warrior from the ground ? 

Cre. With virgin arms, 

For she was not his mother. 

Ion. Of the child 

Disposing as in pictures 'tis described ? 

Cre. To Cecrops' daughters him she gave for nurture. 
With strict injunctions never to behold him. 

Ion. I hear those virgins oped the wicker chest 
In which the goddess lodged him. 

Cre. Hence their doom 

Was death, and with their gore they stained the rock. 

Ion. Let that too pass. But is this rumour true, 
Or groundless ? 

Cre. What's your question ? for with leisure 

I am not overburdened. 


Ion. Did Erectheus, 

Thy royal father, sacrifice thy sisters ? 

Cre. He feared not in his country's cause to slay 
Those virgins. 

Ion. By what means didst thou alone 

Of all thy sisters 'scape ? 

Cre. a new-born infant, 

I still was in my mother's arms. 

Ion. Did earth 

Indeed expand her jaws, and swallow up 
Thy father ? 

' Cre. Neptune with his trident smote 

And slew him. 

Ion. Is the spot on which he died 

Called Macra? 

Cre. For what reason do you ask 

This question ? To my memory what a scene 
Have you recalled ! 

Ion. Doth not the Pythian god 

Revere, and with his radiant beams adorn 
That blest abode ? 

Cre. Revere ! But what have I 

To do with that .'' Ah, would to heaven I ne'er 
Had seen the place ! 

Ion. What then ! Dost thou abhor 

What Phoebus holds most dear ? 

Cre. Not thus, O stranger ; 

Though I know somewhat base that has been done 
Under those caverns. 

Ion. What Athenian lord 

Received thy plighted hand .'' 

Cre. No citizen 

Of Athens ; but a sojourner, who can>e 
Out of another country. 

Ion. Who? He sure 

Was of some noble lineage ? 

Cre. Xuthus, son 

Of itolus, who sprung from Jove. 

Ion. How gained 

This foreigner the hand of thee, a native.' 

ION. 57 

Cre. Euboea is a region on the confines 
Of Athens. 

Ion. With the briny deep between, 

As fame relates. 

Cre. Those bulwarks he laid waste, 

With Cecrops' race a comrade in the war. 

Ion. He thither came perhaps as an ally, 
And afterwards obtained thee for his bride. 

Cre. In me the dower of battle, and the prize 
Of his victorious spear, did he receive. 

Ion. Alone, or with thy husband, art thou come 
These oracles to visit ? 

Cre. With my lord : 

But to Trophonius' cavern he is gone. 

Ion. As a spectator only, or t' explore 
The mystic will of Fate ? 

Cre. He hopes to gain 

From him and from Apollo one response. 

Ion. Seek ye the general fruit earth's bosom yields, 
Or children ? 

Cre. We are childless, though full long 

Have we been wedded. 

Ion. Hast thou never known 

The pregnant mother's throes .'' Art thou then barren ? 

Cre. Phoebus well knows I am without a son 

Ion. O wretched woman, who in all beside 
Art prosperous : Fortune here, alas, deserts thee. 

Cre. But who are you? How happy do I deem 
Your mother ! 

Ion. An attendant on the god 

They call me ; and, O woman, such I am. 

Cre. Sent from your city as a votive gift. 
Or by some master sold .'' 

Ion. I know this only, 

That I am called Apollo's. 

Cre, In return, 

I too, O stranger, pity your hard fate. 

Ion. Because I know not either of my parents. 

Cre. Beneath this faae or some more lowly dome 
Reside you ? 


Ion. This whole temple of the god 

Is my abode, here sleep I. 

Cre. While an infant, 

Or since you were a stripling, came you hither? 

Ion. The persons who appear to know the truth 
Assert I was a child. 

Cre. What Delphic nurse 

Performed a mother's office ? 

Ion. I ne'er clung 

To any breast — she reared me. 

Cre. Hapless youth. 

Who reared you 1 How have I discovered woes 
Which equal those I suffer ! 

Ion. Phcebus' priestess, 

Whom :is my real mother I esteem. 

Cre. But how were you supported till you reached 
Maturer years ? 

Ion. I at the altar fed, 

And on the bounty of each casual guest. 

Cre. Whoe'er she was, your mother sure was wretched. 

Ion. Perhaps to me some woman owes her shame. 

Cre. But say, what wealth you have ? For you are drest 
In a becoming garb. 

Ion. I am adorned 

With these rich vestments by the god I serve. 

Cre. Did you make no researches to discover 
Your parents ? 

Ion. I have not the slightest clue 

To guide my steps. 

Cre. Alas, another dame 

Like sufferings with your mother hath endured. 

Ion. Who ? Tell me. Thy assist^.nce wouldst thou give, 
I should rejoice indeed. 

Cre. She for whose sake 

I hither came before my lord arrive. 

Ion. What are thy wishes in which I can serve thee ? 

Cre. I would obtain an oracle from Phoebus 
In private. 

Ion. Name it : for of all beside 

Will I take charge. 

ION. 59 

Cre. Now to my words attend — 

Yet shame restrains me. 

Ion. Then wilt thou do nothing : 

For Shame's a goddess not for action formed. 

Cre. One of my friends informs me that by Phoebus 
She was embraced. 

Ion. a woman by Apollo ! 

Use not such language, thou foreign dame. 

Cre. And that without the knowledge of her sire, 
She bore the god a son. 

Ion. This cannot be ; 

Her modesty forbids her to confess 
What mortal wronged her. 

Cre. No ; she suffered all 

That she complains of, though her tale be wretched. 

Ion. In what respect, if by the bonds of love 
She to the god was joined ? 

Cre. The son she bore 

She also did cast forth. 

Ion. Where is the boy 

Who was cast forth, doth he behold the light ? 

Cre. None knows ; and for this cause would I consult 
The oracle. 

Ion. But if he be no more, 

How died he ? 

Cre. Much she fears the beasts devoured 

Her wretched child. 

Ion. What proof hath she of this ? 

Cre. She came where slie exposed, and found him 

Ion. Did any drops of blood distain the path ? 

Cre. None, as she says ; although full long she searched 
Around the field. 

Ion. But since that hapless boy 

Perished, how long is it ? 

Cre. Were he yet living. 

His age would be the same with yours. 

Ion. Tlie god 

Hath wronged her, yet the mother must be wretched. 

Cre. Since that hath she produced no other child. 


Ion. But what if Phoebus bore away by stealth 
His son, and nurtured him ? 

Cre. He acts unjustly, 

Alone enjoying what to both belongs. 

Ion. Ah me ! Such fortune bears a close resemblance 
To my calamity. 

Cre. I make no doubt, 

O stranger, but your miserable mother 
Wishes for you. 

Ion. Revive not piteous thoughts 

By me forgotten. 

Cre. I my question cease ; 

Now finish your reply. 

Ion. Art ihou aware 

In what respect thou hast unwisely spoken ? 

Cre. Can aught but grief attend that wretched dame ? 

Ion. How is it probable the god should publish. 
By an oracular response, the fact 
He wishes to conceal .'' 

Cre. If here he sit 

Upon his public tripod to which Greece 
Hath free access. 

Ion. He blushes at the deed ; 

Of him make no inquiries. 

Cre. The poor sufferer 

Bewails her fortunes. 

Ion. No presumptuous seer 

To thee this mystery will disclose : for Phcebus, 
In his own temple with such baseness charged. 
Justly would punish him who should expound 
To thee the oracle. Depart, O woman ; 
For of th' immortal powers we must not speak 
With disrespect. This were the utmost pitch 
Of frenzy should we labour to extort 
From the unwilling gods those hidden truths 
They mean not to disclose, by slaughtered sheep, 
Before their altars, or the flight of birds. 
If 'gainst Heaven's will we strive to reach down blessings, 
In our possession they become a curse : 

ION. 6i 

But what the gods spontaneously confer 
Is beneficial. 

Chor. In a thousand forms, 

A thousand various woes o'erwhelm mankind : 
But life can scarce afford one happy scene. 

Cre. Elsewhere as well as here art thou unjust 
To her, O Phoebus, who though absent speaks 
By me. For thou hast not preserved thy son 
Whom thou wert bound to save ; nor wilt thou answer 
His mother's questions, prophet as thou art : 
That, if he be no more, there may a tomb 
For him be heaped, or haply, if he live, 
She may at length behold her dearest child. 
But now no more of this, if me the god 
Forbid to ask what most I wish to know. 
Conceal, O gentle stranger (for I see 
My lord the noble Xuthus is at hand, 
Who from the cavern of Trophonius comes), 
What thou hast heard, lest I incur reproach 
For thus divulging secrets, and my words, 
Not as I spoke them, should be blazed abroad : 
For the condition of our sex is hard, 
Subject to man's caprice ; and virtuous dames, 
From being mingled with the bad, are hated. 
Such, such is woman's miserable doom. 

Xuthus, Creusa, Ion, Chorus. 

XUT. I to the god begin t' r.ddress myself: 
Him first I hail ; and yoa my consort next. 
Hath my long stay alarmed you .'' 

Cre. No ; thou com'st 

To her who is opprest with anxious thoughts. 
Say from Trophonius what response thou bring'st ; 
Doth hope of issue wait us ! 

XUT. He refused 

T' anticipate the prophecies of Phoebus ; 
All that he said was this : nor I, nor thou. 
Shall from this temple to our home return 
Thus destitute of children. 


Cre. Holy mother 

Of PhcEbus, to our journey grant success ; 
And O may fortune yet have bliss in store 
T'or those on whom thy son erst deigned to smile. 

XUT. Thy vows shall be nccomplished : but what prophet 
Officiates in this temple of the god ? 

Ion. I here without am stationed ; but within, 

stranger, others near the tripod take 
Their seat, from Delphi's noblest citizens 
Chosen by lot. 

XUT. 'Tis well : I have attained 

The utmost of my wishes, and will enter 
The sanctuary, for here before the temple, 

1 am informed, tiie oracles in public 
To foreigners are uttered ; on this day 
(For 'tis a solemn feast) we mean to hear 
The god's prophetic voice. O woman, take 
Branches of laurel, and at every altar 
Offer up vows to the immortal powers, 
That I from Phoebus' temple may procure 
This answer, that my wishes shall be crowned 
With an auspicious progeny. 

Cre. Depend 

On their completion : but were Phoebus' self 
Disposed to make atonement for past wrongs, 
He now, alas ! no longer can to me 
Entirely be a friend : yet I from him 
Whate'er he pleases am constrained to take, 
Because he is a god. {Exeunt XuTHUS and Creusa. 

Ion. In mystic words. 

Why doth this foreign dame, against our god 
Still glance reproaches, through a strong attachment 
To her for whom she hither to consult 
The oracle is come ; or doth she hide 
Some circumstance unfit to be disclosed ? 
But with Erectheus' daughter what concern 
Have I, what interest in th' Athenian realm ? 
ni go and sprinkle from the golden vase 
The lustral waters. Yet must I condemn 

ION. 63 

Phcebus : what means he ? To the ravished maid 

Unfaithful hath he proved : his son, by stealth 

Begotten, left neglected to expire. 

Act thou not thus ; but since thou art supreme 

In majesty, let virtue too be thine. 

For whosoever of the human race 

Transgresses, with severity tlie gods 

Punish his crimes : then how can it be just 

For you, whose written laws mankind obey, 

Yourselves to break them ? Though 'twill never be. 

This supposition will I make, that thou, 

Neptune, and Jove, who in the heaven bears rule, 

Should make atonement to mankind for those 

Whom ye have forcibly deflow'red ; your temples 

Must ye exhaust to pay the fines imposed 

On your base deeds : for when ye follow pleasure, 

Heedless of decency, ye act amiss ; 

No longer is it just to speak of men 

As wicked, if the conduct of the gods 

We imitate : our censures rather ought 

To fall on those who such examples give. [Exil lON. 




thou who aid'st tlie matron's throes, 
Come Eilithya, for to thee I sue; 
Minerva next with honours due 

1 hail, who by Prometheus' aid arose 

In arms refulgent from the front of Jove, 
Nor knew a mother's fostering love ; 

Victorious queen, armed with resistless might, 
O'er Pythian fanes thy plumage spread, 

Forsake awhile Olympus' golden bed, 
O wing thy rapid ilight 
To this blest land where Phcebus reigns. 

This centre of the world his chosen seat, 

Where from his tripod in harmonious strains 

Doth he th' unerring prophecy repeat : 


With Latona's daughter join, 
For thou Hke her art spotless and divine ; 
Sisters of Phoebus, with persuasive grace, 

Ye virgins sue, nor sue in vain. 
That, from his oracles, Erectheus' race 
To the Athenian throne a noble heir may gain. 

Object of Heaven's peculiar care 
Is he whose children, vigorous from their birth, 

Nursed on the foodful lap of earth, 
Adorn his mansion and his transports share : 
No patrimonial treasures can exceed 

Theirs who by each heroic deed 
Augment the fame of an illustrious sire. 

And to their children's children leave 
Th' invaluable heritnge entire. 
In troubles we receive 

From duteous sons a timely aid, 
And social pleasure in our prosperous hours. 
The daring youth, in brazen arms arrayed 
Guards with protended lance his native towers. 

To lure these eyes, though gold were spread, 
Though Hymen wantoned on a legal bed, 
Such virtuous offsprinLj would my soul prefer. 

The lonely childless life I hate, 
And deem that they wlio choose it greatly err, 
Blest with a teeming couch, I ask no kingly stale. 

Ye shadowy groves where sportive Pan is seen, 
Stupendous rocks whose pine-clad summits wave, 

Where oft near Macra's darksome cave. 
Light spectres, o'er the consecrated green, 

Agraulos' daughters lead the dance 
Before the portals of Minerva's fane 

To the shrill flute's varied strain. 
When from thy caverns, through the vale around, 

O Pan, the cheering notes resound. 
Under those hanging cliffs (abhorred mischance I 

ION. 65 

Some nymph a son to Phoebus bore, 
Whom she to ravenous birds a bloody feast 

Exposed, and to each savage beast ; 

Her shame, her conscious guilt, deplore. 
Nor at my loom, nor by the voice of Fame 

Have I e'er heard it said, 
The base-born issue of some human maid, 
Begotten by a god, to bliss have any claim. 

Ion, Chorus. 

Ion. O ye attendants on your noble mistress, 
Who watch around the basis of this fane, 
Say, whether Xuthus have already left 
The tripod and oracular recess. 
Or in the temple doth he stay to ask 
More questions yet about his childless state ? 

Chor. He is within, nor yet hath passed the threshold 
Of these abodes, O stranger : but we hear 
The sounding hinges of yon gates announce 
His coming forth : and see, my lord advances ! 

XuTHUs, Ion, Chorus. 

XUT. On thee, my son, may every bliss attend : 
For such an introduction suits my speech. 

Ion. With me all's well : but learn to think aright, 
And we shall both be happy. 

XuT. Give thy hand. 

And suffer me t' embrace thee. 

Ion. Are your senses 

Yet unimpaired, or hath the secret curse 
Some god inflicts, O stranger, made you frantic ? 

XUT. In my right mind am I, if having found 
Him whom I hold most dear, I wish t' embrace him. 

Ion. Desist, nor touch me, lest your rude hand tear 
The garlands of the god. 

Xur. Now in these arms 

Thee I have caught, no pledge will I receive ; 
For I've discovered my beloved son. 

Ion. Wilt thou not leave me, ere these shafts transpierce 
Your vitals ? 



Xux. But why shun me, now thou know'st 

That I to thee by such strong ties am bound ? 

Ion. Because to me it is no welcome office 
Foolish and frantic strangers to recall 
To their right reason. 

XUT. Take my life away, 

And burn my corse ; but if thou kill me, thou 
Wilt be thy father's murderer. 

Ion. How are you 

My father 1 Is not this ridiculous ? 

XUT. In a few words to thee would I explain 
Our near connection. 

Ion. What have } ou to say ? 

XUT. I am thy sire, and thou art my own son. 

Ion. Who told you this .? 

XUT. Apollo, by whose care 

Thou, O my son, wert nurtured in this fane. 

Ion. You for yourself bear witness. 

XUT. Having searched 

The oracles of this unerring god — 

Ion. Some phrase of dubious import have you heard. 
Which hath misled you. 

XUT. Heard I not aright ? 

Ion. What said Apollo ? 

XuT. That the man who meets me — 

Ion. Where? 

XUT. As I from the temple of the god 

Am going forth. 

Ion. What fortunes him await ? 

XuT. Those of my son. 

Ion. By birth or through adoption ? 

XuT. A gift and my own child. 

Ion. Am I the first 

You light on ? 

XuT. I have met none else, my son. 

Ion. Whence springs this strange vicissitude of fortune .-' 

XUT. The same event with wonder strikes us both. 

Ion. To you, what mother bore me .-* 

XUT. This I know not. 

ION. 67 

Ion. Did not Apollo say? 

XUT. I was delighted 

With what he had revealed, and searched no farther. 

Ion. From mother earth I surely sprung. 

XuT. The ground 

Brings forth no children. 

Ion. How can I be yours? 

Xur. I know not; but refer thee to the god. 

Ion. Some other subject let us now begin. 

XUT. This is a topic, O my son, to me 
Most interesting. 

Ion. The joys of lawless love 

Have you experienced? 

XUT. Yes, through youthful folly. 

Ion. Ere you were wedded to Erectheus' daughter ? 

XUT. Not ever since. 

Ion. Did you beget me then ? 

XuT. The time just tallies. 

Ion. But how came I hither? 

XUT. This quite perplexes. 

Ion. From a distant land ? 

XUT. In this I also find new cause for doubt. 

Ion. Did you ascend erewhile the Pythian rock? 

XUT. To celebrate the festivals of Bacchus. 

Ion. But to what host did you repair ? 

XuT. The same 

Who me with Delphic maids — 

Ion. Initiated? 

Or what is it you mean ? 

Xtjt. The Maenades 

Of Bromius too. 

Ion. While sober, or o'erpowered 

By wine ? 

XUT. The joys of Bacchus had ensnared me. 

Ion. Hence it appears I was begotten then. 

XUT. Fate hath at len<^th discovered thee, my son. 

Ion. But to this fane how could I come ? 

XuT. The nymph 

Perhaps exposed thee. 



Ion. I from servitude 

Have made a blest escape. 

XUT. Now, O my son, 

Embrace thy sire. 

Ion. I ought not to distrust 

The god. 

XUT. Thou thinWst aright. 

Ion. And is there aught 

That I can wish for more — 

XuT. Thou now behold'st 

As much as it concerns thee to behold. 

Ion. Than from Jove's son to spring? 

XUT. Which is thy lot. 

Ion. May I embrace the author of my birth ? 

XuT. To the god yielding credence. 

Ion. Hail, my father. 

XUT. With ecstasy that title I receive. 

Ion. This day— 

XuT. Hath made me happy. 

Ion. My dear mother, 

Shall I e'er see thee ? More than ever now 
(Be who thou wilt) I for that moment long. 
But thou perhaps art dead, and I for thee 
Can now do nothing. 

Chor. With our monarch's house 

We share the glad event : yet could I wish 
My royal mistress and Erectheus' race 
With children had been blest. 

XuT. The god, my son, 

In thy discovery hath done well ; to him 
I owe this happy union. Thou too find'st 
A father, though thou never knew'st till now 
By whom thou wert begotten : with thy wishes 
Mine, O my son, conspire, that thou mayst find 
Thy mother, and that I may learn who bore thee. 
By leaving this to time, we may at length 
Perhaps discover her : but now forsaking 
Apollo's temple and this exiled state, 
With duteous zeal accompany thy sire 

ION. 69 

To Athens, where this heritage awaits thee, 

A prosperous sceptre and abundant wealth : 

Nor though thou want one parent, can the name, 

Or of ignoble, or of poor be thine : 

But for thy noble birth shalt thou be famed. 

And thy abundant treasures. Art thou silent ? 

Why dost thou fix thine eyes upon the ground ? 

Thy anxious thoughts return, and thou, thus changed 

From thy past cheerfulness, alarm'st my soul. 

Ion. Things at a distance wear not the same semblance 
As when on them we fix a closer view. 
I certainly with gratitude embrace 
My better fortunes, having found in you 
A father. But whence rose my anxious thoughts 
Now hear : in Athens, I am told, a native 
Is deemed a glorious name, not so the race 
Of aliens. I its gates shall enter laden 
With these two evils ; from a foreign sire 
Descended, and myself a spurious child. 
Branded with this reproach, doomed to continue 
In base obscurity, I shall be called 
A man of no account : but if intruding 
Into the highest stations in the city, 
I aim at being great, I shall incur 
Hate from the vulgar, for superior power 
Is to the people odious ; but the friends 
Of virtue, they whose elevated souls 
With real wisdom are endued, observe 
A modest silence, nor with eager haste 
Rush into public business ; such as these 
Will laugh and brand me with an idiot's name, y 

For not remaining quiet in a land 
Which with tumultuous outrages abounds. 
Again, will those of a distinguished rani: 
Who at the helm preside, when I attempt 
To raise myself to honours, be most wary 
How on an alien they their votes confer. 
For thus, my sire, 'tis ever wont to be ; 
They who possess authority and rank 


Loathe their competitors. But when I come, 

Unwelcome stranger, to a foreign house 

And to the childless matron — partner once 

In your calamity, of all her hopes 

Now reft — with bitter anguish will she feel 

In private this misfortune : by what means 

Can I escape her hatred, at your footstool 

When I am seated, hxat she, still remaining 

A childless consort, with malignant eyes 

The object of your tenderness beholds ? 

Then or, betraying me, will you regard 

Your wife : or by th' esteem for me exprest, 

A dire confusion in your palace cause. 

For men, by female subtlety, how oft 

Have poisons been invented to destroy ; 

Yet is my pity to your consort due. 

Childless and hastening to the vale of years ; 

Sprung from heroic sires she ill deserves 

To pine through want of issue. But the face 

Of empire whom we foolishly commend 

Is fair indeed, though in her mansions Grief 

Hath fixed her loathed abode. For who is happy, 

Who fortunate, when his whole life is spent 

In circumspection and in anxious fears ? 

Rather would I in an ignoble state 

Live blest, than be a monarch who delights 

In evil friends, and hates the good, still fearing 

The stroke of deaih. Perhaps you will reply 

That gold can all these obstacles surmount, 

And to grow rich is sweet. I would not hear 

Tumultuous sounds, or grievous toils endure. 

Because these hands my treasures still retain. 

May I possess an humbler rank exempt 

From sorrow ! O my sire, let me describe 

The blessings I have here enjoyed ; first ease, 

To man most grateful ; by the busy crowd 

I seldom was molested, from my path 

No villain drove me : not to be endured 

Is this, when we to base competitors 

ION. Ji 

Are forced to yield pre-eminence. I prayed 
Fervently to the gods, or ministered 
To mortals, and with those who did rejoice 
I never grieved. Some strangers I dismissed. 
But others came. Hence a new object still 
Did I rernain, and each new votary please. 
What men are bound to wish for, even they 
Wlio with reluctance practise what they ought, 
The laws conspired to aid my natural bent, 
And in the sight of Phoebus made me just. 
These things maturely weighing in my breast, 
I deem my situation here exceeds 
What Athens can bestow. Allow me then 
The privilege of living to myself : 
For 'tis an equal blessing, or to taste 
The splendid gifts of fortune with delight. 
Or in an humbler station rest content. 

Chor. Well hast thou spoken : could thy words conduce 
To the felicity of those I love ! 

XuT. Cease to speak thus, and learn how to be happy : 
For on the spot where thee I found, my son, 
Will I perform due rites, the social board 
Crown with a public banquet, and slay victims 
In celebration of thy natal day. 
Which with no sacrifice hath yet been graced. 
But now conducting thee, as if a guest 
Entered my doors, thee with a splendid feast 
Will I regale, and to th' Athenian realm 
Lead thee as one who comes to view the land. 
Not as my son; because I would not grieve 
My consort, who is childless, while myself 
In thee am blest : yet will I seize at length 
Some happy moment, and on her prevail 
To let thee wield my sceptre. By the name 
Of Ion, I accost thee, which best suits 
Th' event that happened, since, as I came forth 
From Phoebus' temple, thou didst meet me first. 
Collecting therefore all thy band of friends, 
Previous to thy departure from the city 


Of Delphi, with the victim ox regale ihem. 

But I command you, damsels, to conceal 

What I have said : for if ye to my wife 

Disclose it, ye shall die. {Exit XUTHUS. 

Ion. Then will I go : 

Yet is there one thing wanting to complete 
My better fortunes : for I cannot hve 
With comfort, if I find not her who bore me. 
If I might yet presume to wish for aught, 
O may my mother prove to be a dame 
Of Athens, that from her I may inherit 
Freedom of speech ! For if a stranger come 
Into that city pure from foreign mixture, 
Although he be a denizen in name, 
By servile fear his faltering tongue is tied, 
Nor dares he freely utter what he thinks, \Exit lON. 



I view the tears which from her eyes shall flow 

The sorrows that shall rend her breast, 
Soon as my queen th' unwelcome truth shall know 

That with an heir her lord is blest. 

While she forlorn and childless pines. 
What priest, O Phoebus, chanted thy decrees ? 
Who bore this stripling nurtured in thy shrines.? 

Suspected frauds my soul displease, 

Unwonted terrors rend my heart, 
While thou to him unfold'st a blest event. 
The boy is versed in every treacherous art. 
To him her choicest gifts hath fortune lent. 
Reared, base-born alien, in a foreign land. 
These obvious truths who fails with me to understand ? 

Shall we, my friends, to our queen's wounded ear 

Without the least disguise relate 
How he proves false who to her soul is dear, 

Her partner in each change of fate, 

ION. 73 

That lord in whom her hopes were placed ? 

But he is happy now, while she descends 
Through misery to the vale of years in haste : 
Disdained by all his virtuous friends 
Shall Xuthus droop, through fortune's power, 

To our rich mansions, who a stranger came, 

Nor duly prized her gift, the royal dower : 

Perish the traitor to our honoured dame ! 

Ne'er may his incense to the gods ascend ! 
Creusa shall know this. I am our sovereign's friend. 


With his new son th' exulting sire 
Already to the festive banquet hies, 

Where steep Parnassus' hills aspire, 

Whose rocky summits touch the skies. 

Where Bacchus lifts a blazing pine. 

And the gay Maenades to join 
His midnight dances haste. With footsteps rude 

Ne'er may this boy intrude 
Into my city ; rather may he die, 

And quit life's radiant mom : 

For groaning Athens would with scorn 
And jealous eyes the alien view, 
Should Xuthus' fraud such cause for scorn supply. 

Enough for her that o'er her plain 
Erst did Erectheus stretch a wide domain. 
Still be each patriot to his children true. 

Creusa, Old Man, Chorus. 

Cre. Thou venerable man, who didst attend 
Erectheus the deceased, my honoured siro, 
Now mount the god's oracular abode, 
That thou my joys, if Phoebus, mighty king. 
The birth of children shall foretell, mayst share. 
For surely to be happy with our friends 
Is most delightful : but (which Heaven forbid !) 
Should any evil happen, to behold 
The face of a benignant man is sweet. 


For though I am thy queen, as thou didst erst 
Honour my father, in that father's stead 
I reverence those grey hairs. 

Old Man. You still retain 

A courtesy of manners, which, O daughter, 
Suits your illustrious lineage : you belie not 
Those first great ancestors from whom you spring, 
Sons of the teeming earth. O lead me, guide 
To the prophetic mansion, for to me 
Th' ascent is steep : but let thy needful aid 
Support me while with aged steps I move. 

Cre. Follow me now, look where thou tread'st. 

Old Man. These feet 

Indeed are tardy, but my zeal is swift. 

Cre. Lean o.. thy staff, while up the winding path 
Thou striv'st to climo. 

Old Man. 'Tis dailtness all, my eyesight 

So fails me. 

Cre. Thou speak'st truth, but let not this 

Make thee dejected. 

Old Man. Not with my consent 

Thus do I suffer ; but on me, though loth, 
What Heaven inflicts have I no power to heal. 

Cre. Ye faithful females, who have served me long, 
Attending at the distaff or the loom. 
What fortunes to my husband were revealed .'' 
Left he the temple with a blest assurance 
Of children, whom t' obtain we hither came ? 
Inform me : for with acceptable tidings 
If ye can greet me, ye will not confer 
Such favour on a mistress who distrusts 
The truth of what ye utter. 

Chor. Ruthless fate ! 

Cre. This prelude to your speech is inauspicious. 

Chor. Ah, wretched me ! But wherefore am I wounded 
By oracles that to my lords belong ? 
No more I Why should I venture to relate 
A tale for which my recompense is death .'' 

Cre. What means this plaint, and whence arise your 
fears ? 

ION. 75 

Chor. Shall we speak out, shall we observe strict silence. 
Or how shall we proceed ? 

Cre. Tell what you know 

Of the misfortune which invades your queen. 

Chor. Yes, thou shouldst hear it all, though twofold death 
Awaited me. Ne'er shall those arms sustain. 
Nor to tKy bosom shalt thou ever clasp. 
The wished-for progeny. 

Old Man. Alas, my daughter. 

Would I were dead ! 

Cre. Wretch that I am ! The woes 

Ye have revealed, my friends, make life a curse. 

Old Man. We perish, O my daughter I 

Cre. Grief, alas ! 

Pierces my vitals. 

Old Man. Those untimely groans 


Cre. My plaints unbidden force their way. 

Old Man. Before we learn — 

Cre. Alas, what farther tidings 

Can I expect .-' 

Old Man. Whether our lord endure 
The same, and share your woes, or you alone 
To adverse fortune are exposed. 

Chor. On him, 

Thou aged man, Apollo hath bestowed 
A son ; this blessing singly he enjoys 
Without his consort. 

Cre. You to me unfold 

The greatest of all evils, an affliction 
Which claims my groans. 

Old Man. But is the son you speak of 

To spring hereafter from some dame unknown, 
Or did Apollo's oracle declare 
Thnt he is born already ? 

Chor. To thy lord 

Phcebus an offspring gives, already t>om, 
Who hath attained the age of blooming manhood : 
For I was present. 

Cre. What is this you scl/? 


To me have you related such a tale 
As no tongue ought to utter. 

Old Man. And to me. 

Cre. But by what means, yet undisclosed, the god 
This oracle to its completion brings, 
Inform me more explicitly, and who 
This stripling is. 

Chor. Apollo to thy husband 

Gave for a son him whom he first should meet, 
As from the temple of the god he came. 

Cre. But as for me, alas ! through my whole life 
Accursed and sentenced to a childless state, 
In solitary mansions shall I dwell. 
What youth was by the oracle designed ? 
"Whom did the husband of unhappy me 
Meet in his passage — how, or where behold him .'' 

Chor. Know'st thou that stripling, O my dearest queen, 
Who swept the temple.? He is Xuthus' son. 

Cre. Ah, would to Heaven that I could wing my flight. 
Through the dark air beyond the Grecian land 
To the Hesperian stars ! How great, how great 
Are the afflictions I endure ! 

Old Man. What name 

His father gave him, know you, or is this 
Yet undetermined 1 

Chor. Ion was he called, 

Because he first his happv father met. 

Old Man. Who was his mother ? 

Chor. That I cannot tell : 

But to acquaint thee, O thou nged man, 
With all that's in my power, her husband went, 
In privacy to offer up a victim 
For the discovery, and the natal day 
Of his new son, and in the hallowed tent 
With him will celebrate a genial banquet. 

Old Man. My honoured mistress (for with you I grieve), 
We are betrayed by your perfidious lord. 
Wronged by premeditated fraud, and cast 
Forth from Erectheus' house : I speak not this 

ION. 77 

Through hatred to your husband, but because 

I love you more than him, who wedding you 

When to the ciiy he a stranger came, 

Your palace too and whole inheritance 

With you receiving, on some other dame 

Appears to have begotten sons by stealth : 

How 'twas by stealth I'll prove ; when he perceived 

That you were barren, he was not content 

To share the self-same fate, but on a slave, 

Whom he embraced in secrecy, begot 

And to some Delphic matron gave this son, 

That in a foreign realm he might be nurtured : 

He, to the temple of Apollo sent, 

Is here trained up in secret. But the sire, 

Soon as he knew the stripling had attained 

The years of manhood, hath on you prevailed 

Hither to come, because you had no child. 

The god indeed hath spoken truth ; not so 

Xuthu?, who from his infancy hath reared 

The boy, and forged these tales ; that, if detected, 

His crimes might be imputed to the god : 

But coming hither, and by length of time 

Hoping to screen the fraud, he now resolves 

He will transfer the sceptre to this stripling, 

For whom at length he forges the new name 

Of Ion, to denote that he went forth 

And met him. Ah, how do I ever hate 

Those wicked men who plot unrighteous deeds. 

And then adorn them with delusive art ! 

Rather would I possess a. virtuous friend 

Of mean abilities, than one more wise 

And profligate. Of all disastrous fates 

Yours is the worst, who to your house admit 

Its future lord, whose mother is unknown, 

A youth selected from th' ignoble crowd, 

The base-born issue of some female slave. 

For this had only been a single ill 

Had he persuaded you, since you are childless, 

T' adopt, and in your palace lodged the son 


Of some illustrious dame : but if to you 
This scheme had been disgustful, from the kindred 
Of ^olus his sire should he have sought 
Another consort. Hence is it incumbent 
On you to execute some great revenge 
Worthy of woman : with the lifted sword, 
Or by some stratagem or deadly poison, 
Your husband and his ofifspring to dispatch 
Ere you by them are murdered : you will lose 
Your life if you delay, for when two foes 
Meet in one house some mischief must befall, 
Or this or that. I therefore will with you 
Partake the danger, and with you conspire 
To slay that stripling, entering the abode 
Where for the sumptuous banquet he is making 
Th' accustomed preparation. While I view 
The san, and e'en in death, will I repay 
" The bounty of those lords who nurtured me. 
For there is one thing only which confers 
Disgrace on slaves — the name ; in all beside 
No virtuous slave to freeborn spirits yields. 

Chor. I too, O my dear mistress, am resolved 
To be the steadfast partner of your fate, 
And die with glory, or with glory live. 

Cre. How, O my tortured soul, shall I be silent? 
But rather how these hidden loves disclose ? 
Shall I shake off all shame ? for what retards 
My farther progress .'' To how dire a struggle 
Doth my beleaguered virtue lie exposed.'' 
Hath not my lord betrayed me ? For of house 
And children too am I deprived. All hopes 
Are vanished now of which I fondly sought 
T' avail myself, but could not, by concealing 
The loss of my virginity, those throes 
Concealing which I ever must bewail. 
But by the starry throne of Jove, the goddess 
Who haunts my rocks, and by the sacred banks 
• Of Triton's lake, whose waters never fail, 
I my disgrace no longer will suppress, 
For, having cleansed my soul from that pollution 

ION. 79 

1 shall have shaken oft" a load of cares. 

My eyes drop tears, and sorrow rei\ds my soul — 

Assailed with treachery both by men and gods, 

Whom I will prove to have been false, devoid 

Of gratitude to those they loved. O thou, 

Whose skilful hand attunes the sevenfold chords 

Of the melodious lyre, from lifeless shells 

Eliciting ihe Muses' sweetest strains, 

Son of Latona, I this day will publish 

A tale to thee disgraceful : for thou cam'st, 

Thou cam'st resplendent with thy golden hair, 

As I the crocus gathered, in my robe 

Each vivid flower assembling to compose 

Garlands of frajrance : thou my snowy wrist 

Didst seize and drag me to the cave, with shrieks 

While to my mother for her aid I cried : 

'Twas impudently done, thou lustful god, 

To gain the favour of the Cyprian queen. 

In evil hour, to thee I bore a son, ' -• 

Whom, fearful of my mother's wrath, I cast 

Into that cave, where thou with wretched me 

Didst join thyself in luckless love. Alas ! 

Now is our miserable son no more. 

On him have vultures feasted. But meanwhile 

Thy festive Pieans to the sounding harp 

Dost thou repeat. O offspring of Latona, 

To thee I speak, who from thy golden tripod 

Dost in this centre of the world dispense 

Thy oracles. My voice shall reach thy ears, 

O thou false paramour, who, from my lord 

Thouj^h thou no favours ever didst receive, 

A son into his mansions hast conveyed : 

Meanwhile the offspring whom to thee I bore 

Hath died unnoticed, by the vultures torn ; 

Lost are the bandages in which his mother 

Had wrapped him. Thee thy Delos doth abhor, 

The branches of whose laurel rise to meet 

The palm, and form that shade, where thee her son 

With arms divine Latona iirst embraced. 

Chor. Ah me I How inexhaustible a source 


Of woes is opened, such as must draw tears 
From every eye. 

Old Man. O daughter, on your face, 
Still with unsated rapture do I gaze. 
My reason have I lost : for, while I strive 
From my o'erburdened spirit to discharge 
The waves of woe, fresh torrents at the poop 
Rush in and overwhelm me, since the words 
Which you have uttered, from your present ills 
Digressing to the melancholy track 
Of other sufferings. What is it you say 1 
What charge would you allege against Apollo ? 
What son is this whom you assert you bore ? 
And in what quarter of your native city 
To beasts did you expose him for a prey 1 
To me repeat the tale. 

Cre. Thou aged man. 

Thy presence makes rne blush : yet will I speak. 

Old Man. Full well do I know how to sympathize 
With my afflicted friends. 

Cre. Then hear my tale. 

Thou must remember, on the northern side 
Of the Cecropian rock, the cave called Macra. 

Old Man. I know it ; on that spot Pan's temple stands. 
And near it blaze his altars. 

Cre. 'Twas the scene 

Of my unhappy conflict. 

Old Man. Say, what conflict? 

Your history makes me weep. 

Cre The amorous god 

Apollo held me in a forced embrace. 

Old Man. Was this, my daughter, then, what I perceived .^ 

Cre. I know not ; but will openly declare 
The truth, if thy conjectures light on it. 

Old Man. When you in silence wailed some hidden woe ? 

Cre. Those evils happened then which I to thee 
Without disguise reveal. 

Old Man. But by what means 

Your union with Apollo did you hide? 

ION. 8i 

Cre. I bore a son — with patience hear me speak, 
O venerable man. 

Old Man. Where 'i Who performed 

Th' obstetric part? Did you alone endure 
The grievous throes of childbirth ? 

Cre. All alone 

Within that cave where 1 my honour lost. 

Old Man. But where's the boy, that in this childless stale 
Thou mayst remain no longer ? 

Cre. He is dead, 

Old man ; to beasts was he exposed. 

Old Man. How ! Dead ! 

Was Phoebus then so base as not to aid you ? 

Cre. No aid he gave : but in the dreary house 
Of Pluto is our hapless offspring nurtured. 

Old Man. But who exposed him ? Sure it was not you ? 

Cre. I in the midnight gloom around him wrapped 
A mantle. 

Old Man. To th' exposure of your son 
Was no man privy ? 

Cre. I had no accomplice 

But secrecy with evil fortune leagued. 

Old Man. And how could you endure to leave the child 
Within that cavern .? 

Cre. How ? These lips did utter 

Full many piteous words. 

Old Man. The cruelty 

Which you here showed was dreadful : but the god 
Than you was still more cruel. 

Cre. Had you seen 

The child stretch forth his suppliant hands to me — 

Old Man. Sought he the fostering breast, or to recHne 
In your maternal arms ? 

Cre. Hence torn he suffered 

From me foul wrong. 

Old Man. But whence could such a thought 

Enter your soul as to expose your son ? 

Cre. Because I hoped Apollo, who begot, 
Would save him. 


Old Man. Ah, what storms have overwhelmed 

The fortunes of your house 1 

Cre. Why, covering up 

Thy head, thus weep'st thou, O thou aged man ? 

Old Man. Because I see you and your father wretched. 

Cre. Such is the doom of frail mortality : 
Nought rests in the same state. 

Old Man. But let us dwell 

No more, O daughter, on the piteous theme. 

Cre. What must I do ? The wretched can devise 
No wholesome counsel. 

Old Man. On the god who wronged you 

First wreak your vengeance. 

Cre. How can I a mortal 

O'ercome the potent deities ? 

Old Man. Set fire 

To Phoebus' awful temple. 

Cre. Fear restrains me, 

And I endure sufficient^voes. already. 

Old Man. Dare then to do what's feasible, to kill 
Your husband. 

Cre. I revere the nuptial bed, 

For when I first espoused the noble Xuthus, 
My lord was virtuous. 

Old Man. Slay at least this boy, 

Who is produced your interest to oppose. 

Cre. Ah, by what means 1 How greatly should I wish 
This done, if it were possible. 

Old Man. By anning 

With swords your followers. 

Cre. I will go : but where 

Shall this be executed.'* 

Old Man. In the tent 

Where with a banquet he regales his friends. 

Cre. This were a public outrage, and my band 
Of followers is but weak. 

Old Man. Alas ! your courage 

Deserts you : forge yourself some better scheme. 

Cre. I too have sckemes both subtle and effective. 

ION. 83 

Old Man. In both will I assist you. 

Cre. Hear me then : 

Full well thou know'st the hist'ny of that war 
Waged by earth's brood. 

Old Man. Against the gods I know 

The giants fought on the Phlasgrean plain. 

Cre. There earth produced the Gorgon, dreadful monster. 

Old Man. To aid her sons in battle, and contend 
With the immortal powers. 

Cre. E'en so, and Pallas, 

Daughter of Jove, the virgin goddess, slew 
This prodigy. 

Old Man. But by what horrid form 
Was it distinguished ? 

Cre. Hissing serpents twined 

Around its chest. 

Old Man. Is this the talc I heard 

In days of yore ? 

Cre. Tiiat Pallas wears its hide 

To guard her bosom. 

Old Man. Which they call the ^gis, 

The garment of Minerva. 

Cre. It obtained 

This name, amidst the combat of the gods 
When she advanced. 

Old ^Ian. But how can this, O daughter, 

Destroy your foes .'' 

Cre. Old man, art thou acquainted 

With Ericthonius, or an utter stranger 
To his whole history ? 

Old Man. Him whom earth brought forth, 

The founder of your race. 

Cre. Minerva gave 

To him when newly born — 

Old Man. Gave what .^ You speak 

With hesitation. 

Cre. Of the Gorgon's blood 

Two drops. 

Old Man. On mortals what effect have these .^ 


Cre. The one produces death, the other heals 
£ach malady. 

Old Man. In what were they contained ? 
Did Pallas to the body of the child 
Affix them ? 

Cre. To his golden bandages : 

He gave them to my sire. 

Old Man. But when he died, 

Did they devolve to you ? 

Cre. To me they came, 

And them e'en now around my wrists I wear. 

Old Man. But of what wondrous qualities, O say, 
Consists this twofold present of the goddess .-' 

Cre. That blood which issued from the monster's vein. 

Old Man. What is the use of this ? and with what virtues 
Is it endued ? 

Cre. Diseases it repels. 

And nourishes man's life. 

Old Man. But what effect 

Arises from the second drop you speak of ? 

Cre. Inevitable death : for 'lis the venom 
Of serpents which around the Gorgon twine. 

Old Man. These drops together mingled, do you bring, 
Or separate ? 

Cre. Separate. For with evil good 

Ought not to be confounded. 

Old Man. You possess, 

My dearest daughter, all that you can need. 

Cre. By this the boy must die : but to dispatch him 
Shall be your office. 

Old Man. Where and by what means 

Can I dispatch him ? It is yours to speak, 
But mine to execute. 

Cre. When at my house 

III Athens he arrives. 

Old Man. In this you speak 

Unwisely ; for you treat with scorn my counsels. 

Cre. What mean'st thou ? Hast thou formed the same sus- 
Which have just entered my misgiving soul } [picions 

ION. 85 

Old Man. Although this boy you slay not, you will seem 
To have contrived his death, 

Cre. 'Tis Well observed : 

For every tongue asserts that stepdames envy 
Their husband's children. 

Old Man. Kill him, therefore, here ; 

You then will be enabled to deny 
That by your means he perished. 

Cre. Ere it comes, 

I that blest hour anticipate. 

Old Man. Your husband 

Will you deceive e'en in that very point 
In which he strives t' o'erreach you. 

Cre. Know'st thou then 

How to proceed ? This ancient golden vase 
Wrought by Minerva, at my hand receiving, 
Go where my lord in secret offers up 
His victims ; when the banquet is concluded, 
And they prepare to pour forth to the gods 
The rich libation, by thy robe conce iled 
Infuse into the goblet of the youth 
Its venomous contents ; for him alone, 
Who in my house hereafter hopes to reign, 
A separate draught, but not designed for all. 
Should he once swallow this, he ne'er will reach 
The famed Athenian gates, but here remain 
A breathless corse. 

Old Man. This mansion, for the purpose ^ 

Of public hospitality designed, 
Now enter : I meanwhile will execute 
The business I'm employed in. Aged feet 
Grow young again by action, though past time 
Can ne'er be measured back. Attend, my queen I 
Bear me to him I hate, aid me to slay 
And drag him forth from the polluted temple ! 
For in their prosperous fortunes men are bound 
To be religious ; but no law obstructs 
His progress who resolves to smite his foes. 

{Exeunt Creusa aiiJ Old Man. 




I. I. 

O Trivia, Ceres' daughter, who presid'st 

O'er the nocturnal passenger, 
And him by day who travels ; if thou guid'st 

Th' envenomed cup, it shall not err 

Before it reach the destined lip 
Of him to whom my venerable queen 

Sends the Gorgon's blood to sip, 
Who treacherously intruding would debase 

Her ancestors' imperial .race. 
No alien's brood in Athens shall be seen ; 
The city where Erectheus filled the throne 
Shall still be ruled by his posterity alone. 

I. 2. 

But if in vain to slay the foe she tries, 
Should fortune too desert my queen, 

And hope which now promotes the bold emprise ; 
The biting falchion's edge I ween, 
Or, twined around her neck, the noose, 

Will finish these accumulated woes. 
Then the flitting spirit, loose 

From earthly gyves, in other forms shall live. 
For she will never tamely give 

Consent, that he, to foreign realms who owes 

His birth, shall seize the palace of her sires : 
Hence from her vivid eyes thick flash indignant fires. 

II. I. 

Shame for that injured god I feel 
To whom the muse awakes her varied strain. 
Intruding with officious zeal. 
Around Callichore's famed spring, 
On the moon's twentieth eve, should he profane 
The kindled torches, and his tribute bring, 
A sleepless votary, mingUng with his train, 

ION. B7 

When in the dance the starry sky 
Of Jove, with the resplendent moon, unites, 

And fifty maids, the progeny 
Of Nereus, sport midst ocean's rapid tide, 

Or where exhaustless rivers glide, 
To Proserpine and Ceres' mystic rites 
Yielding due homage : from the Delphic fane. 

Yet there this vagrant hopes to reign, 
And satiate his rapacious soul's desire 

With wealth, which others' toils acquire. 

II. 2. 

Ye bards who crowd each hostile page 
With tales of wives beguiled by lawless love, 

And war with feeble woman wage, 

View with impartial eye our deeds. 
And listen for a moment while I prove 
How greatly female chastity exceeds 
Man, whom unbridled passions prompt to rove. 

Oft have rude songs profaned our name, 
Now let the muse man's haughty sex assail, 

And publish deeds replete with shame. 
For he who from Jove's sons derives his birth 

Is void of gratitude and worth. 
Nought could the throne his consort gave avail 
To make the nuptial bed his scene of joy : 

He hath obtained this spurious boy. 
By the seducing wiles of Venus led 

To some ignoble damsel's bed. 

Servant, Chorus. 

Ser. Where, O ye noble matrons, shall I find 
My queen, Erecthcus' daughter? For in quest 
Of her through the whole city have I ranged. 
But cannot meet with her. 

Chor. O thou who tend'st 

On the same lords with me, what fresh event 
Hath happened — wherefore mov'st thou with such speed ? 
And what important.tidings dost thou bring.?.-. . 


Ser. We are pursued : the rulers of this land 
Search after her, resolved that she shall die, 
Thrown headlong from the rock. 

Chor. Ah me ! what sayst thou ? 

Could we not then conceal our scheme of slaying 
The boy ? 

Ser. We are detected, and her danger 
Is now most imminent. 

Chor. But by what means 

Were these our hidden stratagems brought forth 
To public view ? 

Ser. The god hath found injustice 

Too weak to cope with justice, nor allows 
His shrine to be polluted. 

Chor. I entreat thee 

Say how this happened : for when we have heard 
Whether our doom be death, we shall die gladly, 
Or, if we live, with pleasure view the sun. 

Ser. When from the god's oracular abode 
With his new son Creusa's husband went 
To hold a feast, and for th' immortal powers 
Prepared oblations, Xuthus sought the hill 
Whence Bacchus' flames burst forth, that he might sprinkle 
Parnassus' cloven summit with ihe blood 
Of slaughtered victims, celebrating thus 
The blest discovery of his long-lost son. 
Whom thus the sire accosted : " Here remain. 
And bid the builders labour to erect 
Such tent as shall enclose an ample space 
On every side : but when I to those gods 
Who bless the natal hour have sacrificed, 
If I stay long, before thy friends who here 
Are present, place the genial feast." Then taking 
The heifers, he departed. But the youth, 
Attentive to his pious task, on columns 
Erected the light roof, to which no walls 
Lent their support ; he guarded it with care, 
Both from the flaming sun's meridian rays, 
And from the western aspect ; then the sides 

ION. . 89 

An acre each in length did he extend, 

With equal angles ; in the central space 

Was there an area, each of the four sides 

Its length extended to six hundred feet, 

A perfect square, which skilful artists say 

Was calculated well to entertain 

All Delphi at the feast ; the sacred tapestry 

Then taking from the treasures of the god, 

He covered o'er the whole — a wondrous sight 

To all beholders. First he o'er the roof 

Threw robes, which Hercules, the son. of Jove, 

To Phosbus at his temple brought, the spoils 

Of vanquished Amazons, a votive gift, 

On which these pictures by the loom were wrought : 

Heaven, in its vast circumference all the stars 

Assembling ; there his coursers, too, the sun 

Impetuous drove, till ceased his waning flame, 

And with him drew in his resplendent train 

Vesper's clear light ; but, clad in sable garb, 

Night hastened onward, with her chariot drawn 

By steeds unyoked ; the stars accompanied 

Their goddess ; through mid-air the Pleiades, 

And, with his falchion, armed Orion moved ; 

But placed on high, around the Northern Pole, 

The Bear, in an averted posture, turned ; 

Then full-orbed Cynthia, who the months divides, 

Darted her splendour from the realms above ; 

Next came the Hyades, a sign well known 

To sailors, and Aurora's dawning light. 

The stars dispelling. But the sides he covered 

With yet more tapestry : the Barbaric fleet 

To that of Greece opposed was there displayed ; 

Followed a monstrous brood, half horse, half man, 

The Thracian monarch's furious steeds subdued, 

And lion of Nemaea ; at the gate 

Close to his d .ughters Cecrops rolled along 

On scaly folds ; this was a votive gift 

From some Athenian citizen unknown. 

He in the centre of the festive board 

9<>^ . EURIPIDES. 

Placed golden cups. An aged herald went 

On tiptoe, and each citizen of Delphi 

Invited to attend the sumptuous feast. 

They, crowned with garlands, when the tent was filled, 

Indulged their genius. After the delight 

Of the repast was o'er, an aged man, 

Into the midst advancing,', took his stand, 

And from the guests by his officious zeal 

Provoked abundant laughter : from huge urns 

He poured the water forth to lave their hands, 

And scattered all around from blazing myrrh 

A rich perfume, over the golden cups 

Presiding, and assuming to himself 

That office. But at length, Avhen the shrill pipe 

Uttered its notes harmonious, and the wine 

Again went round, the jovial veteran cried : 

*' These smaller cups remove, and in their stead 

Large goblets bring, that all may cheer their souls 

More expeditiously." Then toiled the servants 

Beneath the silver vessels which they bore, 

And golden beakers by the sculptor wrought : 

But he, selecting one of choicest mould. 

As if he only meant to show respect 

To his young lord, presented it filled high 

Up to the brim, infusing midst the wine 

A deadly poison, which 'tis said his queen 

Gave him, that the new offspring of her lord 

Might perish, but without iis being known 

To any man what caused the stripling's death. 

While he, whom Xuihus has declared his son, 

Surrounded by his comrades, in his hands 

Held the libation, some reproachful word 

Was uttered by a servant, which the youth. 

Who had received his nurture in the fane 

And midst experienced prophets, thought an omen 

Most unpropitious, and another goblet 

Commanded to be filled : but, on the ground, 

As a libation to the Delphic god. 

Poured forth the first, and bade his comrades follow 

ION. 91 

Th' example which he gave. A general silence 

Succeeded : we the holy goblets filled 

With water and with Biblian wine. While thus 

We were employed, there flew into the tent 

A flock of doves (for they beneath the roof 

Of Phoebus dwell secure) ; but of the wine 

When they had tasted, after they had dipped 

Their beaks, which thirsted for the luscious draught, 

And the rich beverage down their featnered throats 

Quafi"ed eagerly, innoxious did it prove 

To all beside, but she, who on the spot 

Had settled where the new-discovered stripling 

Poured his libation down, no sooner tasted 

The liquor, than she shook her wings, cried out 

With a shrill plaintive voice, and, groaning, uttered 

Notes unintelligible. Every guest 

The struggles of the dove amazed ; she died 

Torn with convulsions, and her purple feet 

Now loosed their hold. But at the social board. 

He whom the oracle declared the son 

Of Xuthus, rent his garments, bared his breast. 

And cried, " What miscreant strove to slay me. Speak, 

Old man, for this officious zeal was thine. 

And from thy hand the goblet I received." 

Then with impetuous grasp his aged arm 

He caught, and questioned him, that in the fact 

Of bearing venomed drugs he might detect him. 

Hence was the truth laid open : through constraint, 

At length did he reluctantly declare 

Creusa's guilt, and how her heart contrived 

The scheme of minist'ring th' envenomed draught. 

Forth from the bnnquet with his comrades rushed 

The youth, whom Phoebus' oracles pronounced 

To be the son of Xuthus. Standing up 

Among the Pythian nobles, thus he spoke: 

" O sacred land, the daughter of Erectheus, 

A foreign dame, would take away my life 

By poison."' Delphi's rulers have decreed 

My queen shall be thrown headlong from the rock, 


Nor hath one single voice, but the consent 
Of all, adjudged her death, because she strove, 
E'en in the temple, to have slain the priest. 
Pursued by the whole city, hither bend 
Her inauspicious steps. She through a wish 
For children to Apollo came : but now 
She perishes with all her hoped-for race. \^Exit Servant. 
Chor. No means are left for wretched me 

The ruthless hand of death to 'scape ; 

For all too plainly see, 
Mixt with the purple juices of the grape, 

The baleful drops of viper's blood : 
'Tis manifest what victims were designed 
To cross the dreary Stygian flood, 
My life is doomed to close in woe, 
At me huge rocky fragments will they throw. 
How, O my royal mistress, shall I find 
Pinions to speed my rapid flight ? 
How shall I penetrate earth's inmost womb, 
And in the realms of night 
Avoid this miserable doom ; 
Avoid the stones which vengeance hurls around. 
When at our heads she aims the wound ? 
Shall I the fleetest steed ascend, 
Or the tall prow which cleaves the billowy main ? 

No heart can hide so foul a stain, 
Unless some god his sheltering aid extend. 
How sorely, O my wretched queen, 
Will thy tortured spirit grieve ! 
And shall not we, who have been seen 
Striving to work another's bane. 
The woes we would inflict, receive, 
As justice doth ordain ? 

Creusa, Chorus. 

Cre. My faithful followers, they pursue my flight, 
Resolved to slay me ; by the public vote 
Of all the Pythian citizens condemned, 
I shall be yielded up. 

ION. 93 

Chor. We are no strangers 

To thy calamities ; mayst thou escape. 
Favoured by fortune ! 

Cre. Whither shall I fly? 

These feet were hardly swift enough l' outstrip, 
Impending death : but from my foes escaped, 
By stealth I come. 

Chor. What shelter canst thou need 

More than these altars furnish ? 

Cre. How can they 

Avail me ? 

Chor. 'Tis unlawful to destroy 
The suppliant. 

Cre. But the law hath sentenced me 

To perish. 

Chor. Hadst thou by their hands been caught. 

Cre. But the relentless ministers of vengeance, 
Armed with drawn swords, haste hither. 

Chor. Take thy seat 

Close to the altar, for if there thou die, 
Thy blood will on thy murderers fix a stain 
That ne'er can be effaced. But we with patience 
Are bound to suffer what the Fates inflict. 

Ion, Creusa, Chorus. 

Ion. Cephisus, O thou awful sire, who bear's! 
The semblance of a bull, what viper's this 
Thou hast begotten, or what dragon darting 
Flames most consuming from her murderous eyes ! 
She with unbounded boldness is endued, 
And pestilent as those envenomed drops 
Of Gorgon's blood with which she sought to kill me. 
Seize her ! Parnassus' rocks shall tear away 
The graceful ringlets of her streaming hair. 
When headlong from its summit she is thrown. 
Me hath propitious fortune here detained, 
Else to th' Athenian city had I gone, 
And fallen into a cruel step-dame's snares, 
But while I yet among my friends I'emain, / 


Thy heart have I explored, how grent a pest 

And foe thou art to me, for at thy doors 

Hadst thou received me, thou to Pluto's reahn 

Wouldst instantly have hurled me down. Behold 

The sorceress, what a complicated scene 

Of treachfery hath she framed, yet trembles not 

The altar of Apollo to approach, 

As if Heaven's vengeance could not reach her crimes. 

But neither shall this altar^aor the temple 

Of Phcebus save thy life : for the compassion 

Thou wouldst excite is rather due to me 

And to my mother ; for although, in person, 

She be not here, yet is that much-loved name 

Ne'er absent from my thoughts. 

Cre. To spare my life 

In my own name I warn you, and in that 
Of the vindictive god before whose altar 
We stand. 

Ion. But what hast thou to do with Phoebus ? 

Cre. Myself I to the Delphic god devote. 

Ion. Though thou his priest by poison wouldst have slain. 

Cre. Phoebus in you had r.t that time no right, 
Because you were your father's. 

Ion. I was once 

Apollo's, and still call myself his son. 

Cre. To him indeed you formerly belonged. 
But now am I his votary, and no claim 
Have you to such a title. 

Ion. Thy behaviour 

Is impious, mine was pious erst. 

Cre. I sought 

To take away the life of you, a foe 
To me and to my house. 

Ion. Did I with arms 

Invade thy country ? 

Cre. Yes, and you have fired 

The mansions of Erectheus, 

Ion. With what brands, 

What flames ? 

ION. 95 

Cre. You in my palace would have dwelt, 

Seizing it 'gainst my will. 

Ion. My sire bestowing - 

On me the realm his valour had obtained. 

Cre. But by what claim rule /Eolus' race 
Over Minerva's city ? 

Ion. With his sword 

He rescued it, and not with empty words. 

Cre. He was but an ally, nor was that land 
His proper residence. 

Ion. Through the mere dread 

Of what might happen, wouldst thou then have slain me? 

Cre. Lest I should perish if your life were spared. 

Ion. With envy art thou stung, because my sire 
Discovered me, while thou remain'st yet childless. 

Cre. Would you invade the childless matron's house ? 

Ion. But have not I some title to a share 
Of my sire's wenlth ? 

Cre. a shield and spear are all 

Your father had, and all that you can claim. 

Ion. Leave Phoebus' altar and this hallowed seat. 

Cre. Where'er she dwell, to your own mother give 
Such admonitions. 

Ion. Shalt thou 'scape unpunished 

For thy attempt to slay me .' 

Cre. If you mean 

To take away my life, let it be here 
Within this temple. 

Ion. What delight to thee 

Can it afford, amid the votive wreaths 
Of Phoebus to expire .'' 

Cre. I shall afflict 

One by whom I have greatly been afflicted. 

Ion. Oh ! 'tis most wondrous how, for man t' observe, 
The deity such laws as are not good 
Or prudent hath enacted. For th* unjust 
Before their altars ought to find no seat, 
But thence to be expelled ; for 'tis not fit 
The statues of the gods by impious hands 


Should be profaned ; but every virtuous man 
Who is oppressed ought to find shelter there. 
Yet is it most unseemly for the just 
And the unjust, when here they meet together, 
T' experience the same treatment from the gods. 

Pythian Priestess, Ion, Creusa, Chorus. 

Pythian Priestess. Refrain thy rage, my son ; for I the 
Of Phoebus, who the tripod's ancient rites 
Maintain, selected from the Delphic maids. 
Leave his oracular abode and pass 
This consecrated threshold. 

Ion. Hail, dear mother. 

Although you bore me not. 

Pythian Pr. Yet call me such. 

That name is not ungrateful. 

Ion. Have you heard 

The stratagems she formed to murder me ? 

Pythian Pr. I heard them ; and thou also hast trans- 
Through cruelty. 

Ion. How? Can it be unjust, 

Those who would slay me, to reward with death } 

Pythian Pr. Wives with inveterate hatred ever view 
Their husbands' sons sprung from another bed. 

Ion. And we who have by them been greatly wronged, 
Abhor those step-dames. 

Pythian Pr. Banish from thy soul . 

This rancour, now the temple thou art leaving. 
And on thy journey to thy native land. 

Ion. How then would you advise me to proceed .'' 

Pythian Pr. Go unpolluted to th' Athenian realm 
With prosperous omens. 

Ion. Sure the man who slays 

His foes is unpolluted. 

Pythian Pr. Act not thus : 

But with attentive ear receive my counsels. 

ION. 97 

Ion. O speak : for your benevolence to me 
Will dictate all you utter, 

Pythian Pr. Dost thou see 

The chest beneath my arm ? 

Ion. An ancient chest. 

With garlands decked, I see. 

Pyihian Pr. In this, thee erst 

A new-bom infant, I received. 

Ion. What mean you .-' 

A fresh discovery opens. 

Pythian Pr. 1 have kept 

These tokens secret ; but display them now. 

Ion. How could you hide them such a length of time 
As since you took me up ? 

Pythian Pr, The god required 

Thy service in his temple. 

Ion. Doth he now 

No longer need it .'' Who this doubt will solve ? 

Pythian Pr. By pointing out thy sire, he from these 
Dismisses thee. 

Ion. But is it by command. 

Or from what motive, that this chest you keep? 

Pythian Pr. Apollo's self inspired me with the thought— 

Ion. Of doing what .-* O speak ! Conclude your tale. 

Pythian Pr. With care preserving to the present time 
What I had found. 

Ion. But how can this to me 

Cause either gain or damage ? 

Pythian Pr. Know'st thou not. 

That round thee close these fillets were entwined ? 

Ion. What you produce may aid me in th' attempt 
To find my mother. 

Pyihian Pr. With the god's consent. 
Which he did erst withhold. 

Ion. O day, that bring'st 

Blest visions to delight these wondering eyes ! 

Pythiax. Pr. Observe these hints, and diligently search 
For her who bore thee : traversing all Asia, 



And Europe's farthest limits, thou shalt know 

The truth of what I speak. Thee, O my son, 

I nurtured, through a reverence for the god, 

And here surrender to thy hands the pledges 

Which 'twas his will I should receive and keep, 

Though not commanded : but I cannot tell 

What motive swayed him. For, that I possessed 

These tokens, was by no man known, or where 

They were concealed. Farewell, my love for tliee 

Is equal to a mother's. With these questions 

Thou shouldst commence thy search for her who bore thee ; 

First, whether she was any nymph of Delphi, 

W^ho thee, the burden of her womb, exposed 

Here in this fane ; but be thy next inquiry, 

If any Grecian dame. For thou deriv'st 

All the advantages thou hast, from me. 

And from Apollo, who in this event 

Hath been concerned. 

Ion. Alas ! what plenteous tears 

Steal from these eyes, while shuddering I revolve 
How she who bore me, having erst indulged 
A secret passion, did by stealth expose, 
Nor at her breast sustain me : but unknown 
I in the temple of Apollo led 
A servile life. The god indeed was kind, 
But fortune harsh : for at the very time 
When in maternal arms I should have sported, 
And tasted somewhat of the joys of life, 
I of my dearest mother's fostering care 
Was cruelly deprived. She from whose womb 
I sprung is wretched too ; she hath endured 
The self-same pangs with me, and lost the bliss 
She might have hoped for from the son she bore. 
But now this ancient coffer will I take 
And carry for a present to the god ; 
O may I hence discover nought to blast 
My wishes ! For if liaply she who bore me 
Should prove some slave, it were a greater evil 
To find my mother than to let her rest 


In silence. I this votive gift, O Phoebus, 

Lodge in thy fane. But what presumptuous deed ! 

Oppose I the benignant god who saved 

These tokens to assist me in discovering 

My mother .? I am bound to ope the Hd, 

And act with courage : for what fate ordains 

I ne'er can supersede. Why were ye hidden 

From me, O sacred wreaths and bandages 

In which I was preserved ? This orbdd chest, 

Behold, how by some counsel of the god 

It hath been freed from the effects of age ; 

Still is its wicker substance undecayed, 

Although the time which intervened was long 

For such a store to last. 

Cre. Ah me ! What vision 

Most unexpected do I see ? 

Chor. Thou oft 

Didst heretofore know when thou shouldst be silent 

Cre. My situation now no more admits 
Of silence : cease these counsels; for I view 
The chest in which I, O my son, exposed you, 
While yet a tender infant, in the cave 
Of Cecrops m.idst th' encircling rocks of Maera. 
I therefore from this altar will depart, 
Though death should be the consequence. 

Ion. O seize her; 

For she, with frenzy smitten by the god, 
Leaps from the hallowed altar : bind her arms. 

Cre, The execution of your bloody purpose 
Suspend not : for this chest, and you, and all 
The hidden rehcs it contains of yours, 
My son, will I hcild fast. 

Ion. Are not these arts 

Most dreadful ? With what specious words e'en now 
She claims me for a pledge ! 

Cre. Not thus : but you, 

Whom they hold dear, are by your friends discovered. 

Ion. Am I a friend of thine, and yet in secret 
Wouldst thou have murdered me .'' 

D 2 



Cre. Yea, and my son ; 

A name to both thy parents ever dear. 

Ion. Cease to contrive these fraudful stratagems ; 
For I will clearly prove that thou art guilty. 

Cre. Ah, would to Heaven that I could reach the m;irk 
At which I aim my shaft ! 

Ion. Is that chest empty, 

Or filled with hidden stores ? 

Cre. Here are the garments 

In which I erst exposed you. 

Ion. Canst thou tell 

What name they bear before thine eyes behold them ? 

Cre. Ill aright describe them not, to die 
Will I be nothing loth. 

Ion. Speak ; for thy boldness 

Is somewhat wonderful. 

Cre. Observe the robe 

Which erst I wove, when yet a maid. 

Ion. What sort 

Of garment is it ? for the virgins' loom 
Produces various woofs. 

Cre Not yet complete ; 

The sketch bespeaks a learner. 

Ion. In what form, 

That here thou mayst not take me unawares ? 

Cre. The Gorgon fills the centre of that vest. 

Ion. O Jove, what fate pursues me ! 

Cre. And the margin 

With serpents is encompassed like the .^gis. 

Ion. Lo ! this is the same garment. We have made 
Such a complete discovery as resembles 
The oracles of Heaven. 

Cre. O woof which erst 

My virgin-shuttle wrought. 

Ion. Canst thou produce 

Aught else, or in this evidence alone 
Art thou successful ? 

Cre. In a style antique 

Dragons with golden cheeks, Minerva's gift, 



Who bids us rear our children 'mong such forms, 
In imitation of our ancestor 
Great Ericthonius. 

Ion. What is their effect, 

Or what can be their use ? To me explain 
These golden ornaments. 

Cre. Them, O ray son, 

Around his neck the new-born child should wear. 

Ion. Here are the drngons : but I wish to know 
What's the third sign. 

Cre. Then round your trow I placed 

A garland of that olive which first grew 
On Pallas' rock ; this, if it still be here, 
Hath not yet lost the verdure of its leaves, 
But flourishes unwithered like the tree 
From which 'twas taken. 

Ion. O my dearest mother, 

With what deUght do I behold thy face ! 
And on those cheeks with what delight imprint 
The kiss of filial rapture ! 

Cre. O my son, 

Who in a mother's partial eyes outshine 
The splendour of Hyperion (for the god 
Wili pardon me), I clasp you in these arms 
Found unexpectedly, you whom I thought 
To have been plunged beneath the silent grave, 
And dwelt with Proserpine. 

Ion. But while thou fling'st, 

O my dear mother, thy fond arms around me, 
To thee I seem like one who hath been dead 
And is restored to life. 

Cre. Thou wide expanse 

Of radiant ether, in what grateful tone 
Shall I express myself? By clamorous shouts ? 
Whence hath such unexpected pleasure reached me ? 
To whom am I indebted for this joy ? 

Ion. Sooner could I have looked for aught, O mother. 
Happening to me, than the discovery made 
In this auspicious hour, that I am thine. 


Cre. With fear I tremble yet lest thou shouldst lose — 

Ion. The son who meets thy fond embrace ? 

Cre. Such hopes 

I from my soul had banished. Whence, O woman, 
Didst thou with fostering arms receive my child.'' 
By whom to Phoebus' temple was he borne ? 

Ion. 'Twas the god's doing. But may prosperous fortune 
Be ours through the remainder of our lives, 
Which have been wretched hitherto. 

Cre. My son, 

Not without tears were you brought forth ; your mother 
'Midst bitter lamentations from her arms 
Cast you to earth : but now, while to your cheeks 
I press my lips, again I breathe, I taste 
The most ecstatic pleasures. 

Ion. What thou sayst 

May to us both with justice be applied. 

Cre. No longer am I left without an heir, 
No longer childless ; my paternal house 
Acquires new strength, and the Athenian realm 
Hath yet its native monarchs. E'en Erectheus 
Grows young again, nor shall our earth-born race 
Be covered with the shades of night, but view 
The sun's resplendent beams. 

Ion. But, O my mother, 

Since my sire too is present, let him share 
The transports I to thee have given. 

Cre. What words 

Are these which you have uttered, O my son ? 

Ion. Who proves to be the author of my birth. 

Cre. Why speak of this 1 For from another sire 
You spring, and not f om Xuthus. 

Ion. Me, alas ! 

In thy unwedded state, a spurious child, 
Thou then didst bear. 

Cre. Nor yet had Hymen waved 

For me his torch, or led the choral dance, 
When, O my dearest son, for you I felt 
A mother's throes. 

ION. 103 

Ion. From what ignoble race 

Am I descended ? 

Cre. Witness she who slew 

The Gorgon. 

Ion, Ha ! What mean'st thou by these words ? 

Cre. Who on my rocks, whence with spontaneous shoot 
The fragrant olive springs, my native hills, 
Fixes her seat. 

Ion. To me thou speak'st so darkly, 

That what thou mean'st I cannot comprehend. 

Cre. Beneath the rock where her harmonious lays 
The nightingale attunes, I by Apollo — 

Ion. Why dost thou name Apollo .'' 

Cre. Was embraced 

In secrecy — 

Ion. Speak on ; for fair renown. 

And prosperous fortune, will to me accrue 
From the event which thou relat'st. 

Cre. To Phoebus. 

While in its orbit the tenth moon revolved, 
I bore a son, whom I concealed. 

Ion. Most grateful 

Are these strange tidings, if tl:ou utter truth. 

Cre. The fillets which I erst, while yet a maid. 
Wove with my shuttle I around you twined •, 
But you ne'er clung to this maternal breast, 
Nor did these hands for you the laver hold, 
But in a desert cavern were you thrown 
To perish, torn by the remorseless beaks 
Of hungry vultures. 

Ion. What a horrid deed 

Was this, in thee, O mother ! 

Cre. By my fears 

Held fast in bondage, O my son, your life 
I would have cast away — would then, though loth. 
Have murdered you. 

Ion. Thou too didst scarce escape 

From being slain by my unholy rage. 

Cre. Such were my wretched fortunes then, and such 


The apprehensions which I felt. Now here, 
Now there, we by calamity are whirled, 
Then sport anew in prosperous fortune's gales, 
Which often veer ; but may they fix at last ! 
May what I have endured suffice ! But now, 
My son, doth a propitious breeze succeed 
The tempest of our woes. 

Chor. Let no man think 

Aught wonderful that happens, when compared 
With these events. 

Ion. O fortune, who hast wrought 

A change in countless multitudes, whom first 
Thou hast made wretched, and then blest anew ; 
What an important crisis of my life 
Is this which I have reached, and been exposed 
To dangers imminent, of slaying her 
Who bore me, and enduring such a death 
As I deserved not ! While we view the sun 
Perform his bright career, fresh truths like these 
Each day lie open for tlie world to learn. 
My mother (blest discovery !), thee I find, 
Nor have I any reason to complain 
Of being sprung from an ignoble sire. 
But I would tell the rest to thee alone : 
Come hither ; let me whisper in thine ear. 
And ovei these transactions cast a veil 
Of darkness. Recollect, if at the time 
When thou thy virgin purity didst forfeil; 
Thou wert not by some secret paramour 
Betrayed, and afterwards induced to charge 
The god with having ruined thee ; my scorn 
Endeavouring to avoid, by the assertion 
That Phcebus is my father, though by him 
Thou wert not pregnant. 

Cre. No, by her who fought, 

Borne in a car sublime, for thundering Jove 
Against the giant's earth-born race, Minerva, 
Victorious goddess, by no mortal sire 
Were you, my son, begotten, but by him 
Who nurtured you, Apollo, mighty king. 

ION. 105 

Ion. What motive, then, had he for yielding up 
His offspring to another sire, pretending 
That I am Xuthus' son ? 

Cre. The god asserts not 

That Xuthus was the author of your birth, 
But you, his offspring, doth on him bestow. 
For to a friend a friend may give his son 
T' inherit his possessions. 

Ion. O my mother, 

An anxious doubt, whether the god speak truth, 
Or utter a fallacious oracle. 
Is cause sufficient to disturb my soul. 

Cre. Hear then, my son, what thoughts to me occur : 
Your benefactor Phoebus places you 
In an illustrious house ; but were you called 
The offspring of the god, you would receive 
For your inheritance nor v/ide domains 
Nor aught of rank paternal. For from him ' 

With whom my luckless union I concealed. 
And secretly attempted to have slain you, 
How could you look for aught ? But he, promoting 
Your interest, to another sire consigns you. 

Ion. I cannot rashly credit tales like these. 
But I will go into the fane, and ask 
Apollo, whether from a mortal sire 
I spring, or whether I am Phoebus' son. 
Ha ! Who is that, who on the pinnacles 
Of this high dome ascending, like the sun, 
Displays her front celestial 1 Let us fly, 
My mother, lest perchance we view the gods 
When we are not permitted to behold them. 

Minerva, Ion, Creusa, Chorus. 

Mm. O stay, for 'tis from me you fly, who bear 
To you no hate, but in th' Athenian realm 
And here am equally your friend : I, Pallas, 
From whom your native 1 md derives its name, 
Am hither come with swift career despatched 
By Phoebus, in your presence who himself 


Deems it not meet i' appear, lest his past conduct 

In foul reproach involve him : but the god 

Sends me t' inform you that Creusa bore. 

And Phoebus was the father who begot you. 

But you, the god, as he sees fit, bestows. 

Not upon him who is your real sire, 

But hath contrived this plot that you may gain 

The heritage of an illustrious house. 

For when the holy oracle pronounced 

This riddle, fearing, by a mother's wiles. 

Lest you should bleed, or with vindictive hand 

That mother sItv, he by a stratagem 

Hath extricated both. The royal seer 

Meant to have kept this secret, till at Athens 

He had proclaimed that you derive your birth 

From Phcebus and Creusa. But this matter 

That I may finish now, and the contents 

Of those important oracles reveal, 

Which to explore ye by your harnessed steeds 

Were hither drawn, attend. Creusa, take 

Thy son, to the Cecropian land repair. 

And place him on the throne ; for, from the race 

Of great Erectheus sprung, he is entitled 

To rule my favoured realm, and shall be famed 

Through Greece : for his four sons, sprun;^ from one root. 

Shall, on their country, and its tribes who dwell 

Upon my sacred rock, their name confer ; 

Geleon the first ; then Hoples, Argades, 

And, from the shield I bear, a chief called M.g\^ 

Shall rule th' ^gichori. But their descendants, 

Born at a period by the Fates assigned. 

Amid the Cyclades shall dwell, in towns 

Encircled by the billowy deep, and havens 

Which to my realm will add new strength : the shores 

Of either continent shall they possess, 

Asia and Europe, but, from Ion, styled 

lonians, they with glory shall be crowned. 

But from thee too and Xuthus shall descend 

A noble race'; Dorus, the mighty founder 

ION. xcfj 

Of the famed Doric realm ; in the domain 

Of ancient Pelops, shall your second son, 

Achseus, be the monarch of the coast 

Bordering on Rhium's steep ascent — with pride 

That nation shall adopt their leader's name. 

In all things hath Apollo acted right ; 

First, without pain he caused thee to bring forth, 

Lest to thy friends thy shame should be revealed : 

But after thou hadst borne this son, and swathed 

Those fillets lound him, he bade Hermes bring ' 

The infant to this fane, and nurtured him, 

Nor suffered him to die. Now, therefore, keep 

Strict silence, nor declare that he is thine, 

That Xuthus may exult in the idea 

Of being father to the youth, while thou, 

woman, shalt enjoy the real bliss. 
Farewell, for from this pause in your afflictions 

1 to you both announce a happier fate. 
Ion. O Pallas, daughter of imperial Jove, 

Thy words I disbelieve not : for from Phoebus 
And this illustrious dame am I convinced 
That I derive my birth, which from the first 
Was not improbable. 

Cre. To what I speak 

Now give attention : I commend Apollo, 
Though erst I blamed him ; for he now restores 
To me the son he formerly neglected. 
Now are these portals pleasing to my sight, 
And this oracular abode of Phoebus, 
Which I so lately loathed. I now these rings 
Seize with exulting hands, and at the threshold 
Utter my grateful orisons. 

MiN. The praises 

Which thou bestow'st on Phcebus, lapplaud, 
And this thy sudden change : for though the aid 
The gods afiford be tardy, it at length 
Proves most efifectual. 

Cre, Let us, O my son. 

Repair to our own Athens. 


MiN. Thither go, 

And I will follow. 

Cre. Deign t' accompany 

Our steps, and to our city prove a friend. 

MiN. Upon the throne of thy progenitors, 
There take thy seat. 

Ion. To me will such possession 

Be honourable. 

Chor. O Phoebus, son of Jove 

And of Latona, hail ! Whene'er his house 
Is shaken by calamity, the man 
Who pays due reverence to the gods hath cause 
To trust in their protection : for at length 
The virtuous shall obtain their due reward, 
Nor shall the wicked prosper in the land. 




Nurse of Medea. 

Attendant on the Children. 


Chorus of Corinthian Women. 




The Two Sons of Jason and 

Creon. I Medea. 

SCENE — Before the Palace of Creon at Corinth. 


Ah ! would to heaven the Argo ne'er had urged 

Its rapid voyage to the Colchian strand 

'Twixt the Cyanean rocks, nor had the pine 

Been fell in Pelion's forests, nor the hands 

Of those illustrious chiefs, who that famed bark 

Ascended to obtain, the golden fleece 

For royal Pelias, plied the stubborn oar ; 

So to lolchos' turrets had my Queen 

Medea never sailed, her soul with love 

For Jason smitten, nor, as since her arts 

Prevailed on Pelias' daughters to destroy 

Their father, in this realm of Corinth dwelt ' 

An exile with her husband and her sons ; ' 

Thus to the citizens whose land received her 

Had she grown pleasing, and in all his schemes 

Assisted Jason : to the wedded pair, 

Hence bliss supreme arises, when the bond 

Of concord joins them : now their souls are filled 

With ruthless hate, and all affection's lost : 

For false to his own sons, and her I serve, 


With a new consort of imperial binh 

Sleeps the perfidious Jason, to the daughter 

Of Creon wedded, lord of these domains. 

The wretched scorned Medea oft exclaims, 

" O by those oaths, by that right hand thou gav'st 

The pledge of faith !" She then invokes the gods 

To witness what requital she hath found 

From Jason. On a couch she lies, no food 

Receiving, her whole frame subdued by grief ; 

And since she marked the treachery of her lord 

Melts into tears incessant, from the ground 

Her eyes she never raises, never turns 

Her face aside, but steadfast as a rock, 

Or as the ocean's rising billows, hears 

The counsels of her friends, save when she weeps 

In silent anguish, with her snowy neck 

Averted, for her sire, her native land. 

And home, which she forsaking hither came 

With him who scorns her now. She from her woes 

Too late hath learnt how enviable the lot 

ftJf those who leave not their paternal roof. 
She even hates her children, nor with joy 
Beholds them : much I dread lest she contrive 
Some enterprise unheard of, for her soul 

, Is vehement, nor will she tamely brook 
Injurious treatment ; well, full well I know 
Her temper, which alarms me, lest she steal 
Into their chamber, where the genial couch 
Is spread, and with the sword their vitals pierce, 
Or to the slaughter of the bridegroom add 
That of the monarch, and in some mischance, 
Yet more severe than death, herself involve : 
For dreadful is her wrath, nor will the object 
Of her aversion gain an easy triumph. 
But lo, returning from the race, her sons 
Draw near : they think not of their mother's woes, 
For youthful souls are strangers to affliction. 


Attend'ant, with the Sons of Jason and Medea, Nurse. 

Att. O thou, who for a length of time hast dwelt 
Beneath the roofs of that illustrious dame 
I serve, why stand'st thou at these gates alone 
Repeating to thyself a doleful tale : 
Or wherefore by Medea from her presence 
Art thou dismissed ? 

NUR. Old man, O you who tend 

On Jason's sons, to faithful servants aught 
Of evil fortune that befalls their lords 
Is a calamity : but such a pitch 
Of grief am I arrived at, that I felt 
An impulse which constrained me to come forth 
From these abodes, and to the conscious earth 
And heaven proclaim the lost Medea's fate. 

Att. Cease not the plaints of that unhappy dame .'' 

NUR. Your ignorance I envy : for her woes 
Are but beginning, nor have yet attained 
Their mid career. 

Att. O how devoid of reason, 

If we with tfrms thus harsh may brand our lords, 
Of ills more recent nothing yet she knows, 

NuR. Old man, what mean you 1 Scruple not to speak. 

At'J'. Nouglit. What I have already said repents me. 

NuR. I by that beard conjure you not to hide 
The secret from your faithful fellow-servant. 
For I the strictest silence will observe 
If it be needful. 

Att. Some one I o'erheard 

(Appearing not to listen, as I came 
Where aged men sit near Pirene's fount 
And hurl their dice) say that from Corinth's land 
Creon, the lord of these domains, will banish 
The children with their mother ; but I know not 
Whether th' intelligence be true, and wish 
It may prove otherwise. ' 

NuR. Will Jason brook 


Sucii an injurious treatment of his sons, 
Although he be at variance with their mother ? 

Att. By new connections are all former ties 
Dissolved, and he no longer is a friend 
To this neglected race. 

N UR. We shall be plunged 

In utter ruin, if to our old woes, 
Yet unexhausted, any fresh we add. 

Att. Be silent, and suppress the dismal tale, 
For 'tis unfit our royal mistress know. 

NUR. Hear, O ye children, how your father's soul 
Is turned against you : still, that he may perish 
I do not pray, because he is my lord ; 
Yet treacherous to his friends hath he been found. 

Att. Who is not treacherous ? Hast thou lived so long 
Without discerning how self-love prevails 
O'er social .? Some by glory, some by gain, 
Are prompted. Then what wonder, for the sake 
Of a new consort, if the father slight 
These children ? 

NuR. Go, all will be well, go in. 

Keep them as far as possible away. 
Nor suffer them to come into the presence 
Of their afflicted mother ; for her eyes 
Have I just seen with wild distraction fired. 
As if some horrid purpose against them 
She meant to execute ; her wrath I know 
Will not be pacified, till on some victim 
It like a thunderbolt from Heaven descends ; 
May she assail her foes alone, nor aim 
The stroke at those she ought to hold most dear. 

Med. \within.'] Ah me ! how grievous are my woes ! What 
Can I devise to end this hated life ? [means 

NuR. 'Tis as I said : strong agitations seize 
Your mother's heart, her choler's raised. Dear children, 
Beneath these roofs hie instantly, nor come 
Into her sight, accost her not, beware 
Of these ferocious manners and the rage 
Which boils in that ungovernable spirit. 

MEDEA. 113 

Go with the utmost speed, for I perceive 

Too clearly that her plaints, which in thick clouds 

Arise at first, will kindle ere 'tis long 

With tenfold violence. What deeds of horror 

From that high-soaring, that remorseless soul, 

May we expect, when goaded by despair ! 

{^Exeunt Attendant and Sons. 

Med. [within.'] I have endured, alas ! I have endured — 
Wretch that I am ! — such agonies as call 
For loudest plaints. Ye execrable sons 
Of a devoted mother, perish ye 
With your false sire, and perish his whole house ! 

NUR. Why should the sons — ah, wretched me! — partake 
Their father's i;uilt ? Why hat'st thou th- m ? Ah me ! 
How greatly, O ye children, do I fear 
Lest mischief should befall you : for the souls 
Of kings are prone to cruelty, so seldom 
Subdued, and over others wont to rule, 
That it is difficult for such to change 
Their angry purpose. Happier I esteem 
The lot of those who still are wont to live 
Among their equals. May I thus grow old, 
If not in splendour, yet with safety blest ! 
For first of all, renown attends the name 
Of mediocrity, and to mankind 
Such station is more useful : but not long 
Can the extremes of grandeur ever last ; 
And heavier are the curses which it brings 
When Fortune visits us in all her wrath. 

Chorus, Nurse. 

Chor. The voice of Colchos' hapless dame I heard — 
A clamorous voice, nor yet is she appeased. 
Speak, O thou aged matron, for her cries 
1 from the innermost apartment heard ; 
Nor can I triumph in the woes with which 
This house is visited ; for to my soul 
Dear are its interests. 

NUR. This whole house is plunged 


In iTiin, and its interests are no more. 
While Corinth's palace to our lord affords 
A residence, within her chamber pines 
My mistress, and the counsels of her friends 
Afford no comfort to her tortured soul. 

Med. [jzutthin.'] O that a flaming thunderbolt from Heaven 
Would pierce this brain ! for what can longer life 
To me avail .'' Fain would I seek repose 
In death, and cast away this hated being. 

Chor. Heard'st thou, all-righteous Jove, thou fostering cirth, 
And thou, O radiant lamp of day, what plaints, 
What clamorous plaints this miserable wife 
Hath uttered ? Through insatiable desire, 
Ah why would you precipitate your death ? 
O most unwise ! These imprecations spare. 
What if your lord's affections are engaged 
By a new bride, reproach him not, for Jove 
Will be the dread avenger of your wrongs ; 
Nor melt away with unavailing grief, 
Weeping for the lost partner of your bed. 

Med. [wtihin.'] Great Themis and Diana, awful queen, 
Do ye behold the insults I endure, 
Though by each oath most holy I have bound 
That execrable husband. May I see 
Him and his bride, torn limb from limb, bestrew 
The palace ; me have they presumed to wrong. 
Although I ne'er provoked them. O my sire, 
And thou my native land, whence I with shame 
Departed when my brother I had slain. 

NUR. Heard ye not all she said, with a loud voice 
Invoking Themis, who fulfils the vow. 
And Jove, to whom the tribes of men look up 
As guardian of their oaths. Medea's rage 
Can by no trivial vengeance be appeased. 

Chor. Could we but draw her hither, and prevail 
On her to hear the counsels we suggest, 
Then haply might she check that bitter wrath. 
That vehemence of temper ; for my zeal 
Shall not be spared to aid my friends. But go, 

MEDEA. 115 

And say, *' O hasten, ere to those within 
Tiiou do some mischief, for these sorrows rush 
With an impetuous tempest on thy soul." 

NUR. This will I do ; though there is cause to fear 
That on my mistress I shall ne'er prevail : 
Yet I my labour gladly will bestow. 
Though such a look she on her servants casts 
As the ferocious lioness who guards 
Her tender young, when any one draws near 
To speak to her. Thou wouldst not judge amiss, 
In charging folly and a total want 
Of wisdom on the men of ancient days, 
Who for their festivals invented hymns. 
And to the banquet and the genial board 
Confined those accents which o'er human life 
Diffuse ecstatic pleasures : but no artist 
Hath yet discovered, by the tuneful song, 
And varied modulations of the lyre, 
How we those piercing sorrows may assuage 
Whence slaughters and such horrid mischiefs spring 
As many a prosperous mansion have o'erthrown. 
Could music interpose her healing aid 
In these inveterate maladies, such gift 
Had been the first of blessings to mankind : 
But, 'midst choice viands and the circling bowl, 
Why should those minstrels strain their useless throat } 
To cheer the drooping heart, convivial joys 
Are in themselves sufficient. \^Exit NURSE. 

Chor. Mingled groans 

And lamentations burst upon mine ear : 
She in the bitterness of soul exclaims 
Against her impious husband, who betrayed 
His plighted faith. By grievous wrongs opprest, 
She the vindictive gods invokes, and Themis, 
Jove's daughter, guardian of the sacred oath, 
Who o'er the waves to Greece benignly steered % 

Their bark adventurous, launched in midnight gloom, 
Through ocean's gates which never can be closed ! 


Medea, Chorus. 

Med. From my apartment, ye Corinthian dames, 
Lest ye my conduct censure, I come forth : 
For I have known full many who obtained 
Fame and high rank ; some to the public gaze 
Stood ever forth, while others, in a sphere 
More distant, chose their merits to display : 
Nor yet a few, who, studious of repose, 
Have with malignant obloquy been called 
Devoid of spirit : for no human eyes 
Can form a just discernment ; at one glance. 
Before the inmost secrets of the heart 
Are clearly known, a bitter hate 'gainst him 
Who never wronged us they too oft inspire. 
But 'tis a stranger's duty to adopt 
The manners of the land in which he dwells ; 
Nor can I praise that native, led astray 
By mere perverseness and o'erweening folly, 
Who bitter enmity incurs from those 
Of his own city. But, alas ! my friends, 
This unforeseen calamity hath withered 
The vigour of my soul. I am undone. 
Bereft of every joy that life can yield, 
And therefore wish to die. For as to him. 
My husband, whom it did import me most 
To have a thorough knowledge of, he proves 
The worst of men. But sure among all those 
Who have with breath rnd renson been endued, 
We women are the most unhappy race. 
First, with abundant gold are we constrained 
To buy a husband, nnd in him receive 
A haughty mas'er. Still doth there remain 
One mischief than this mischief yet more grievous. 
The hazard whether we procure a mate 
Worthless or virtuous : for divorces bring 
Reproach to woman, nor must she renounce 
The man she wedded ; as for her who comes 
Where usages and edicts, which at home 

MEDEA. 117 

She learnt not, are established, she the gift 

Of divination needs to teach her how 

A husband must be chosen : if aright 

These duties we perforin, and he the yoke 

Of wedlock with complacency sustains, 

Ours is a happy life ; but if we fail 

In this great object, better 'twere to die. 

For, when afiflicted by domestic ills, 

A man goes forth, his choler to appease, 

And to some friend or comrade can reveal 

What he endures ; but we to him alone 

For succour must look up. They still contend 

That we, at home remaining, lead a life 

Exempt from danger, while they launch the spear : 

False are these judgments ; rather would I thrice, 

Armed with a target, in th' embattled field 

Maintain my stand, than suffer once the throes 

Of childbirth. But this language suits not you ; 

This is your native city, the abode 

Of your loved parents, every comfort life 

Can furnish is at hand, and with your friends 

You here converse : but I, forlorn, and left 

Without a home, am by that husband scorned 

Who carried me from a Barbarian realm. 

Nor mother, brother, or relation now 

Have I, to whom I 'midst these storms of woe, 

Like an auspicious haven, can repair. 

Thus far I therefore crave ye will espouse 

My interests, as if haply any means 

Or any stratagem can be devi-sed 

For me with justice to avenge these wrongs 

On my perfidious husband, on the king 

Who to that husband's arms his daughter gave, 

And the new-wedded princess ; to observe 

Strict silence. For although at other times 

A woman, filled with terror, is unfit 

For battle, or to face the lifted sword, 

She when her soul by marriage wrongs is fired. 

Thirsts with a rage unparalleled for blood. 


Chor. The silence you request I will observe, 
For justly on your lord may you inflict 
Severest vengeance : still I wonder not 
If your disastrous fortunes you bewail : 
But Creon I behold who wields the sceptre 
Of these domains ; the monarch hither comes 
His fresh resolves in person to declare. 

Creon, Medea, Chorus. 

Cre. Thee, O Medea, who, beneath those looks 
Stern and forbidding, harbour'st 'gainst thy lord 
Resentment, I command to leave these realms 
An exile ; for companions of thy flight 
Take both thy children with thee, nor delay. 
Myself pronounce this edict : I my home 
Will not revisit, from the utmost bounds 
Of this domain, till I have cast thee forth. 

Med. Ah, wretched me ! I utterly am ruined : 
For in the swift pursuit, my ruthless foes, 
Each cable loosing, have unfurled their sails, 
Nor can I land on any friendly shore 
To save myself, yet am resolved to speak, 
Though punishment impend. What cause, O Creon 
Have you for banishing me ? 

Cre. Thee I dread 

(No longer is it needful to disguise 
My thoughts) lest 'gainst my daughter thou contrive 
Some evil such as medicine cannot reach. 
Full many incidents conspire to raise 
This apprehension : with a deep-laid craft 
Art thou endued, expert in the device 
Of mischiefs numberless, thou also griev'st 
Since thou art severed from thy husband's bed. 
I am informed, too, thou hast menaced vengeance 
'Gainst me, because my daughter I bestowed 
In marriage, and the bridegroom, and his bride. 
Against these threats I therefore ought to guard 
Before they take effect ; and better far 
Is it for me, O woman, to incur 

MEDEA. 119 

Thy hatred now, than, soothed by thy mild words, 
Hereafter my forbearance to bewail. 

Med. Not now, alas ! for the first time, but oft 
To me, O Creon, hath opinion proved 
Most baleful, and the source of grievous woes. 
Nor ever ought the man, who is possest 
Of a sound judgment, to train up his children 
To be too wise : for they who live exempt 
From war and all its toils, the odious name 
Among their fellow-citizens acquire 
Of abject sluggards. If to the unwise 
You some fresh doctrine broach, you are esteemed 
Not sapient, but a trifler : when to those 
Who in their own conceit possess each branch 
Of knowledge, you in state affairs obtain 
Superior fame, to them you grow obnoxious. 
I also feel the grievance I lament ; 
Some envy my attainments, otliers think 
My temper uncomplying, thougli my wisdom 
Is not tianscendent. But from me it seems 
You apprehend some violence ; dismiss 
Those fears ; my situation now is such, 
O Creon, that to monarchs I can give 
No umbrage : and in what respect have you 
Treated me with injustice .'' You bestowed 
Your daughter where your inclination led. 
Though I abhor my husband, I suppose 
That you have acted wisely, nor repine 
At your prosperity. Conclude the match ; 
Be happy : but allow me in this land 
Yet to reside ; for I my wrongs will bear 
In silence, and to my superiors yield. 

Cre. Soft is the sound of thy persuasive words, 
But in my soul I feel the strongest dread 
Lest thou devise some mischief, and now less 
Than ever can I trust thee ; for 'gainst those 
Of hasty tempers with more ease we guard, 
Or men or women, than the silent foe 
Who acts with prudence. Therefore be thou gone 


With speed, no answer make : it is decreed, 
Nor hast thou art sufficient to avert 
Thy doom of banishment ; for well aware 
Am I thou hat'st me. 

Med. Spare me, by those knee 5 

And your new-wedded daughter, I implore. 

Cre. Lavish of words, thou never shall persuade me. 

Med, Will you then drive me hence, and to my prayers 
No reverence yield } 

Cre. I do not love thee more 

Than those of my own house. 

Med. With what regret 

Do I remember thee, my native land ! 

Cre. Except my children, I hold nought so dear. 

Med. To mortals what a dreadful scourge is love I 

Cre. As fortune dictates, love becomes, I ween, 
Either a curse or blessing. 

Med, Righteous Jove, 

Let not the author of my woes escape thee. 

Cre. Away, vain woman, free me from my cares, 

Med, No lack of cares have L 

Cre, Thou from this spot 

Shalt by my servants' hands ere long be torn. 

Med. Not thus, O Creon, I your mercy crave. 

Cre, To trouble me, it seems, thou art resolved. 

Med, I will depart, nor urge this fond request. 

Cre. Why dost thou struggle then, nor from our realm 
Withdraw thyself? 

Med, Allow me this one day 

Here to remain, till my maturer thoughts 
Instruct me to what region I can fly. 
Where for my sons find shelter, since their sire 
Attends not to the welfare of his race. 
Take pity on them, for you also know 
What 'tis to be a parent, and nmst feel 
Parental love : as for myself, I heed not 
The being doomed to exile, but lament 
Their hapless fortunes. 

Cre. No tyrannic rage 

MEDEA. lai 

Within this bosom dwells, but pity oft 

Hath warped my better judgment, and though now 

My error I perceive, shall thy bequest 

Be granted. Yet of this must I forewarn thee : 

If when to-morrow with his orient beams 

Phoebus the world revisits, he shall view 

Thee and thy children still within the bounds 

Of these domains, thou certainly shalt die — 

Th' irrevocable sentence is pronounced. 

But if thou needs must tarry, tarry here 

This single day, for in so short a space 

Thou canst not execute the ills I dread. \^Exit Creon. 

Chor. Alas ! thou wretched woman, overpowered 
By thy afflictions, whither wilt thou turn ? 
What hospitable boird, what mansion, find. 
Or country to protect thee from these ills ? 
Into what storms of misery have the gods 
Caused ihee to rush ! 

Med. On every side distress 

Assails me : who can contradict this truth .'' 
Yet think not that my sorrows thus shall end. 
By yon new-wedded pair must be sustained 
Dire conflicts, and no light or trivial woes 
By them who in affinity are joined 
With this devoted house. Can ye suppose 
That I would e'er have soothed him, had no gain 
Or stratagem induced me "i Else to him 
Never would I have spoken, nor once raised 
My suppliant hands. But now_ is he so lost 
In folly, that, when all my schemes with ease 
He might have baffled, if he from this land 
Had cast me forth, he grants me to remain 
For this one day, and ere the setting sun 
Three of my foes will I destroy — the sire, 
The daughter, and my husband : various means 
Have 1 of slaying them, and, O my friends. 
Am at a loss to fix on which I first 
Shall undertake, or to consume with flames 
The bridal mansion, or a dagger plunge 


Into their bosoms, entering unperceived 

The chamber where they sleep, But there remains 

One danger to obstruct my path : if caught 

SteaUng into the palace, and intent 

On such emprise, in death shall I afford 

A subject of derision to my foes. 

This obvious method were the best, in which 

I am most skilled, to take their lives away 

By sorceries. Be it so ; suppose them dead. 

What city will receive me for its guest, 

What hospitable foreigner afford 

A shelter in his, or to his hearth 

Admit, or snatch me from impending fate ? 

Alas ! I have no friend. I will delay 

A little longer therefore ; if perchance. 

To screen me from destruction, I can find 

Some fortress, then I in this deed of blood 

With artifice and silence will engage ; 

But, if by woes inextricable urged 

Too closely, snatching up the dagger them 

Am I resolved to slay, although myself 

Must perish too ; for courage unappalled 

This bosom animates. By that dread queen, 

By her wliom first of nil th' immortal powers 

I worship, and to aid my bold emprise 

Have chosen, the thrice awful Hecatd, 

Who in my innermost apartment dwells. 

Not one of them shall triumph in the pangs 

With which they wound my heart ; for I will render 

This spousal rite to them a plenteous source 

Of bitterness and mourning— they shall rue 

Their union, rue my exile from this land. 

But now come on, nor, O Medea, spare 

Thy utmost science to devise and frnme 

Deep stratagems, witli swift career advance 

To deeds of horror. Such a strife demands 

Thy utmost courage. Hast thou any sense 

Of these indignities .'' Nor is it fit 

That thou, who spring'st from an illustrious sire. 

MEDEA. 123 

And from that great progenitor the sun, 
Shouldst be derided by the impious brood 
Of Sisyphus, at Jason s nuptial feast 
Exposed to scorn : for thou hast ample skill 
To right thyself. Although by Nature formed 
Without a genius apt for virtuous deeds, 
We women are in mischiefs most expert. 



I. I. 

Now upward to their source the rivers flow, 
And in a retrogade career 

Justice and all the baffled virtues go. 
The views of man are insincere, 
Nor to the gods though he appeal, 
And with an oath each promise seal, 

Can he be trusted. Yet doih veering fame 
Loudly assert the female claim, 
Causing our sex to be renowned, 
And our whole lives with glory crowned. 
No longer shall we mourn the wrongs 
Of slanderous and inhuman tongues. 

I. 2. 

Nor shall the Muses, as in ancient days, 
Make the deceit of womankind 

The constant theme of their malignant lays. 
For ne'er on our uncultured mind 
Hath Phoebus, god of verse, bestowed 
Genius to frame the lofty ode ; 

Else had we waked the lyre, and in reply 
With descants on man's infamy 
Oft lengthened out th' opprobrious page. 
Yet may we from each distant age 
Collect such records as disgrace 
Both us and man's imperious race. 


II. I. 

By love distracted, from ihy native strand, 
Thou 'twixt the ocean's c'ashing locks didst sail 
But now, loathed inmate of a foreign land, 
Thy treacherous husband's loss art doomed to wail, 
O hapless matron, overwhelmed with woe, 
From this unpitying realm dishonoured must thou go. 

II. 2. 

No longer sacred oaths their credit bear, 
And virtuous shame hath left the Grecian plain, 
She mounts to Heaven, and breathes a purer air. 
For thee doth no paternal house remain 
The sheltering haven from affliction's tides ; 
Over these hostile roofs a mightier queen presides. 

Jason, Medea, Chorus. 

Jas. Not now for the first time, but oft, full oft 
Have I observed that anger is a pest 
The most unruly. For when in this land. 
These mansions, you in peace might have abode, 
By patiently submitting to the will 
Of your superiors, you, for empty words. 
Are doomed to exile. Not that I regard 
Your calling Jason with incessant rage 
The worst of men ; but for those bitter taunts 
With which you have reviled a mighty king, 
Too mild a penalty may you esteem 
Such banishment. I still have soothed the wrath 
Of the offended monarch, still have wished 
That you might here continue ; but no bounds 
Your folly knows, nor can that tongue e'er cease 
To utter menaces against your lords ; 
Hence from these regions justly are you doomed 
To be cast forth. But with unwearied love 
Attentive to your interest nm I come, 
Lest with your children you by cruel want 
Should be encompassed ; exile with it brings 

MEDEA. 125 

Full many evils. Me, though you abhor, 
To you I harbour no unfriendly thought. 

Med. Thou worst of villains (for this bitter charge 
Against thy abject cowardice my tongue 
May justly urge), com'st thou to me, O wretch, 
Who to the gods art odious, and to me 
And all the human race ? It is no proof 
Of courage, or of steadf.nstness, to face 
Thy injured friends, but impudence, the worst 
Of all diseases. Yet hast thou done well 
In coming: I by uttering the reproaches 
Which thou shall ease my burdened soul. 
And thou wilt grieve to hear them. With th' events 
Which happened first will I begin my charge. 
Each Grecian chief who in the Argo sailed 
Knows how from death I saved thee, when to yoke 
The raging bulls whose nostrils poured forth flames, 
And sow the baleful harvest, thou wert sent : 
Then having slain the dragon, who preserved 
With many a scaly fold the golden fleece. 
Nor ever closed in sleep his watchful eyes, 
I caused the morn with its auspicious beams 
To shine on thy deliverance ; but, my sire 
And native land betraying, came with thee 
To Pelion, and lolcbos' gates : for love 
Prevailed o'er reason. Pelias next I slew — 
Mc'St wretched death — by his own daughters' hands. 
And thus delivered thee from all thy fears. 
Yet though to me, O most ungrateful man, 
Thus much indebted, hast thou proved a traitor, 
And to the arms of this new consort fled. 
Although a rising progeny is thine. 
Hadst thou been childless, 'twere a venial fault 
In thee to court another for thy bride. 
But vanished is the faith which oaths erst bore, 
Nor can I judge whether thou think'st the gods 
Who ruled the world have lost their ancient power 
Or that fresh laws at present are in force 
Among mankind, because thou to thyself 


Art conscious, thou thy plighted faith hast broken. 

O my right hand, which thou didst oft embrace, 

Oft to these knees a suppliant cling ! How vainly 

Did I my virgin purity yield up 

To a perfidious husband, led astray 

By flattering hopes ! Yet I to thee will speak 

As if thou wert a friend, and I expected 

From thee some mighty favour to obtain : 

Yet thou, if strictly questioned, must appear 

More odious. Whither shall I turn me now ? 

To those deserted mansions of my father. 

Which, with my country, I to thee betrayed, 

And hither came ; or to the wretched daughters 

Of Pelias ? They forsooth, whose sire I slew. 

Beneath their roofs with kindness would receive me. 

'Tis even thus : by those of my own house 

Am I detested, and, to serve thy cause, 

Those very friends, whom least of all I ought 

To have unkindly treated, have I made 

My enemies. But eager to reay 

Such favours, 'mongst unnumbered Grecian dames, 

On me superior bliss hast thou bestowed. 

And !. unhappy woman, find in thee 

A husband who deserves to be admired 

For his fidelity. But from this realm 

When I am exiled, and by every friend 

Deserted, with my children left forlorn, 

A glorious triumph, in thy bridal hour, 

To thee will it afford, if those thy sons. 

And I who saved thee, should like vagrants roam. 

Wherefore, O Jove, didst thou instruct mankind 

How to distinguish by undoubted marks 

Counterfeit gold, yet in the front of vice 

Impress no brand to show the tainted heart? 

Chor. How sharp their wrath, how hard to be appeased, 
When friends with friends begin the cruel strife. 

Jas. I ought not to be rash, it seems, in speech, 
But like the skilful pilot, who, with snils 
Scarce half unfurled, his bark more surely guides, 

MEDEA. 12J' 

Escape, O woman, your ungovemed tongue. 

Since you the benefits on me conferred 

Exaggerate in so proud a strain, I deem 

That I to Venus only, and no god 

Or man beside, my prosperous voyage owe. 

Although a wondrous subtlety of soul 

To you belong, 'twere an invidious speech 

For me to make should I relate how Love 

By his inevitable shafts constrained you 

To save n;y life. I will not therefore state 

This argument too nicely, but allow, 

As you did aid me, it was kindly done. 

But by preserving me have you gained more 

Than you bestowed, as I shall prove : and first, 

Transplanted from barbaric shores, you dwell 

In Grecian regions, and have here been taught 

To act as justice and the laws ordain. 

Nor follow the caprice of brutal strength. 

By all the Greeks your wisdom is perceived. 

And you acquire renown ; but had you still 

Inhabited that distant spot of earth. 

You never had been named. I would not wish 

For mansions heaped with gold, or to exceed 

The sweetest notes of Orpheus' magic lyre, 

Were those unfading wreaths which fame bestows 

From me withheld by fortune. I thus far 

On my own labours only have discoursed. 

For you this odious strife of words began. 

But in es]30using Creon's royal daughter, 

With \\hich you have reproached me, I will prove 

That I in acting thus am wise and chaste, 

That I to you have been the best of friends, 

And to our children. But make no reply. 

Since hither from lolchos' land I came, 

Accompanied by many woes, and such 

As could not be avoided, what device 

More advantageous could an exile frame 

Than wedding the king's daughter ? Not through hate 

To you, which you reproach me with, not smitten 


With love for a new consort, or a wish 

The number of my children to augment : 

For those we have already might suffice, 

And I complain not. But to me it seemed 

Of great importance that we both might live 

As suits our rank, nor suffer abject need, 

Well knowing taht each friend avoids the poor. 

I also wished to educate our sons 

In such a manner as befits my race 

And with their noble brothers yet unborn, 

Make them one family, that thus, my liouse 

Cementing, 1 might prosper. In some measure 

Is it your interest too that by my bride 

I should have sons, and me it much imports, 

By future children, to provide for those 

Who are in being. Have I judged amiss 1 

You would not censure me, unless your soul 

Were by a rival stung. But your whole sex 

Hath these ideas ; if in man-iage blest 

Ye deem nought wanting, but if some reverse 

Of fortune e'er betide the nuptial couch. 

All that was good and lovely ye abhor. 

Far better were it for the human race 

Had children been produced by other means. 

No females e'er existing : hence might man 

Exempt from every evil have remained. 

Chor. Thy words hast thou with specious art adorned, 
Yet thou to me (it is against my will 
That I such language hold), O Jason, seem'st 
Not to have acted justly in betraying 
Thy consort. 

Med. From the many I dissent 

In many points : for, in my judgment, he 
Who tramples on the laws, but can express 
His thoughts with plausibility, deserves 
Severest punishment : for that injustice 
On which he glories, with his artful tongue. 
That he a fair appearance can bestow, 
He dares to practise, nor is truly wise. 

MEDEA. 129 

No longer then this specious language hold 
To me, who by one word cnn strike thee dumb. 
Hadst thou not acted with a base design, 
It was thy duty first to have prevailed 
On me to give consent, ere these espousals 
Thou hadst contracted, nor kept such design 
A secret from thy friends. 

Jas. You would have ser^-ed 

My cause most gloriously, had I disclosed 
To you my pufposed nuptials, when the rage 
Of that proud heart still unsubdued remains. 

Med. Thy real motive was not what thou sayst, 
But a Barbarian wife, in thy old age. 
Might have appeared to tarnish thy renown. 

Jas. Be well assured, love urged me not to take 
The daughter of the monarch to my bed. 
But 'twas my wish to save you from distress, 
As I already have declared, and raise 
Some royal brothers to our former sons, 
Strengthwiing with fresh supports our shattered house. 

Med. May that prosperity which brings remorse 
Be never mine, nor riches such as sting 
The soul with anguish. 

Jas. Are you not aware 

You soon will change your mind and grow more wise? 
Forbear to spurn the blessings you possess, 
Nor droop beneath imaginary woes, 
When you are happy. 

Med. Scoff at my distress, 

For thou hast an asylum to receive thee : 
But from this land am I constrained to roam 
A lonely exile. 

Jas. This was your own choice : 

Accuse none else. 

Med. What have I done— betrayed 

My plighted faith and sought a foreign bed ? 

Jas. You uttered impious curses 'gainst the king. 

Med. I nlso in thy mansions am accursed. 

Jas. With you I on these subjects will contend 



No longer. But speak freely, what relief, 

Or for the children or your exiled state, 

You from my prosperous fortunes would receive : 

For with a liberal hand am I inclined 

My bounties to confer, and hence despatch 

Such tokens, as to hospitable kindness 

Will recommend you. Woman, to refuse 

These offers were mere folly ; from your soul 

Banish resentment, and no trifling gain 

Will hence ensue. 

Med. No use I of thy friends 

Will make, nor aught accept ; thy presents spare, 
For nothing which the wicked man can give 
Proves beneficial. 

J AS. I invoke the gods 

To witness that I gladly would supply 
You and your children with whate'er ye need : 
But you these favours loathe, and with disdain 
Repel your friends : hence an increase of woe 
Shall be your lot. 

Med. Be gone ; for thou, with love 

For thy young bride inflamed, too long remain'st 
Without the palace. Wed her ; though perhaps 
(Yet with submission to the righteous gods, 
This I announce) such marriage thou mayst rue. 

[/T.r// Jason. 


I. I. 
Th' immoderate loves in their career, 
Nor glory nor esteem attends. 
But when the Cyprian queen descends 
Benignant from her starry sphere. 
No goddess can more justly claim 

From man the grateful prayer. 
Thy wrath, O Venus, still forbear, 
Nor at my tender bosom aim 
That venomed arrow, ever wont t' inspire 
Winged from thy golden b^w. the pangs of keen desire. 

MEDEA, 131 

I. 2. 

May I in modesty delight, 
Best present which the gods can give, 
Nor torn by jarring passions live 
A prey to wrath and cankered spite, 
Still envious of a rival's charms, 

Nor rouse the endless strife 
While on my soul another wife 
Impresses vehement alarms: 
On us, dread queen, thy mildest influence shed. 
Thou who discern'st each crime that stains the nuptial bed. 

II. I, 

My native land, and dearest home ! 
" May I ne'er know an exiled state. 
Nor be it ever my sad fate 
While from thy well-known bourn I roam, 
My hopeless anguish to bemoan. 

Rather let death, let death 
Take at that hour my forfeit breath. 
For surely never was there known 
On earth a curse so great ns to exceed, 
From his loved country torn, the wretched exile's need. 

II. 2. 

These eyes attest tliy piteous tale. 
Which not from fame alone we know ; 
But, O tliou royal dame, thy woe 
No generous city doth bewail. 
Nor one among thy former friends. 
Abhorred by Heaven and earth, 
Perish the wretch devoid of worth, 
Engrossed by mean and selfish ends, 
Whose heart expands not those he loved to aid ; 
Never may I lament attachments tlius repaid. 

^GEUS, Medea, Chorus. 

-£g. Medea, hail ! for no man can devise 
Terms more auspicious to accost his friends. 
Med. And you, O son of wise Pandion, hail 

E 2 


Illustrious ^.geus. But to these domains 
Whence came you ? 

■^G. From Apollo's ancient shrine. 

Med. But to that centre of the world, whence sounds 
Prophetic issue, why did you repair ? 

J^G. To question by what means I may obtain 
A race of children. 

Med. By the gods, inform me, 

Are you still doomed to drag a childless life ? 

.^G. Such is the influence of some adverse demon. 

Med. Have you a wife, or did you never try 
The nuptial yoke .'' 

J£.G. With wedlock's sacred bonds 

I am not unacquainted. 

Med. On the subject 

Of children, what did Phoebus say ? 

&G. His words 

Were such as mortals cannot comprehend. 

Med. Am I allowed to know the god's reply .'' 

^G. Thou surely art : such mystery to expound 
There needs the help of thy sagacious soul. 

Med. Inform me what the oracle pronounced, 
If I may hear it. 

M.G. " The projecting foot. 

Thou, ot the vessel must not dare to loose " — 

Med. Till you do what, or to what region come ? 

itG. " Till thou return to thy paternal lares." 

Med. But what are you in need of, that you steer 
Your bark to Corinth's shores ? 

Mg. A king, whose name 

Is Pittheus, o'er Troezene's realm presides. 

Med. That most religious man, they say, is son 
Of Pelops. 

J^G. I with him would fain discuss 

The god's prophetic voice. 

Med. For he is wise, 

And in this science long hath been expert. 

J^G. Dearest to me of those with whom I formed 
A league of friendship in the embattled field. 

MEDEA. 133 

Med. But, O may you be happy, and obtain 
All that you wish for. 

JEg. Why those downcast eyes, 

That wasted form } 

Med. O ^geus, he I wedded 

To me hath proved of all mankind most base. 

JEg. What mean'st thou ? In plain terms thy grief declare. 

Med. Jason hath wronged me, though without a cause. 

^G. Be more explicit, what injurious treatment 
Complain'st thou of? 

Med. To me hath he preferred 

Another wife, the mistress of this house. 

Mg. Dared he to act so basely ? 

Med. Be assured 

That I, whom erst he loved, am now forsaken. 

.^G. What amorous passion triumphs o'er his soul .'' 
Or doth he loathe thy bed .'' 

Med. 'Tis mighty love. 

That to his first attachment makes him false. 

^G. Let him depnrt then, if he be so void 
Of honour as thou sayst. 

Med. He sought to form 

Alliance with a monarch. 

JEg. Who bestows 

On him a royal bride .? Conclude thy tale. 

Med. Creon, the ruler of this land. 

^G. Thy sorrows 

Are then excusable. 

Med. I am undone, 

And banished hence. 

Mg. • By whom ? There's not a word 

Thou utter'st but unfolds fresh scenes of woe. 

Med. Me from this realm to exile Creon drives. 

JEg. Doth Jason suffer this ? I cannot praise 
Such conduct. 

Med. Not in words : though he submits 

Without reluctance. But I by that beard. 
And by those knees, a wretched suppliant, crave 
Your pity ; see me not cast forth forlorn, 


But to your realms and to your social hearth 

Receive me as a guest ; so may your 

For children be accomplished by the gods, 

And happiness your close of life attend. 

But how important a discovery Fortune 

To you here makes you are not yet apprised : 

For destitute of heirs will I permit you 

No longer to remain, but through my aid 

Shall you have sons, such potent drugs I know. 

JEg. Various inducements urge me to comply 
With this request, O woman ; first an awe 
For the immortal gods, and then the hope 
That I the promised issue shall obtain. 
On what my senses scarce can comprehend 
I will rely. O that thy arts may prove 
Effectual ! Thee, if haply thou arriv'st 
In my domain, with hospitable rites 
Shall it be my endeavour to receive. 
As justice dictates : but to thee, thus much 
It previouly behoves me to announce: 
I will not take thee with me from this realm ; 
But to my house if of thyself thou come 
Thou a secure asylum there shalt find. 
Nor will I yield thee up to any foe. 
But hence without my aid must thou depart, 
For I, from those who in this neighbouring land 
Of Corinth entertain me as their guest, 
Wish to incur no censure. 

Med. Your commands 

Shall be obeyed : but would you plight yopr faith 
That you this promise will to me perform, 
A noble friend in you shall I have found. 

JEg. Believ'st thou not? Whence rise these anxious 
doubts ? 

Med. In you I trust; though Pelias' hostile race 
And Creon's hate pursue me : but, if bound 
By the firm sanction of a solemn oath. 
You will not suffer them with brutal force 
To drag me from your realm, but having entered 

MEDEA. 135 

Into such compact, and by every god 
Sworn to protect me, still remain a friend, 
Nor hearken to their embassies. My fortune 
Is in its wane, but wealth to them belongs, 
And an imperial mansion. 

^G. In these words 

Hast thou expressed great forethought : but if thus 
Thou art disposed to act, I my consent 
Will not refuse; for I shall be more safe 
If to thy foes some plausible excuse 
I can allege, and thee more firmly stablish. 
But say thou first what gods I shall invoke. 

Med. Swear by the earth on which we tread, the sun 
My grandsire, and by all the race of gods, 

.^G. What action, or to do or to forbear ? 

Med. That from your land you never will expel, 
Nor while you live consent that any foe 
Shall tear me thence. 

M.G. By earth, the radiant sun, 

And every god I swear, I to the terms 
Thou hast proposed will steadfastly adhere. 

Med. This may suffice. But what if you infringe 
Your oath, what punishment will you endure 1 

J^G. Each curse that can befall the impious man. 

Med. Depart, and prosper: all things now advance 
In their right track, and with the utmost speed 
I to your city will direct my course, 
When I have executed those designs 
I meditate, and compassed what I wish. \Exit .^^GEUS. 

Chor. But thee, O king, may Maia's wingdd son 
Lead to thy Athens ; there mayst thou attain 
All that thy soul desires, for thou to me, 

^geus, seem'st most generous. 

Med. Awful Jove, 

Thou too, O Justice, who art ever jomed 
With thundering Jove, and bright Hyperion's beams, 
You I invoke. Now, O my friends, o'er those 

1 hate shall we prevail : 'tis the career 
Of victory that we tread, and I at length 


Have hopes the strictest vengeance on my foes 

To execute : for where we most in need 

Of a protector stood, appeared this stranger, 

The haven of my counsels : we shall fix 

Our cables to this poop, soon as we reach 

That hallowed city where Minerva reigns. 

But now to you the whole of my designs 

Will I relate ; look not for such a tale 

As yields delight : some servant will I send 

An interview with Jason to request. 

And on his coming, in the softest words 

Address him ; say these matters are well pleasing 

To me, and in the strongest terms applaud 

That marriage with the daughter of the king, 

Which now the traitor celebrates ; then add, 

" 'Tis for our mutual good, 'tis rightly done." 

But the request which I intend to make 

Is that he here will let my children stay; 

Not that I mean to leave them thus behind, 

Exposed to insults in a hostile realm 

From those I hate ; but that my arts may slay 

The royal maid : with presents in their hands, 

A vesture finely wrought and golden crown, 

Will I despatch them ; these they to the bride 

Shall bear, that she their exile may reverse : 

If these destructive ornaments she take 

And put them on, both she, and every one 

Who touches her, shall miserably perish — 

My presents with such drugs I will anoint. 

Far as to this relates, here ends my speech. 

But I with anguish think upon a deed 

Of more than common horror, which remains 

By me to be accomplished : for my sons 

Am I resolved to slay, them from this arm 

Shall no man rescue. When I thus have filled 

With dire confusion Jason's wretched house, 

I, from this land, yet reeking with the gore 

Of my dear sons, will fly, and having dared 

A deed most impious. For the scornful taunts 

MEDEA. 137 

Of those we hate are not to be endured, 

Happen what may. Can hfe be any gain 

To me who have no country left, no home, 

No place of refuge? Greatly did I err 

When I forsook the mansions of my sire, 

Persuaded by the flattery of that Greek 

Whom I will punish, if just Heaven permit. 

For he shall not again behold the children 

I bore him while yet living. From his bride 

Nor shall there issu^ any second race, 

Since that vile woman by my baleful drugs 

Vilely to perish have the Fates ordained. 

None shall think lightly of me, as if weak. 

Of courage void, or with a soul too tame, 

But formed by Heaven in a far different mould. 

The terror of my foes, and to my friends 

Benignant : for most glorious are the lives 

Of those who act with such determined zeal. 
Chor. Since thy design thus freely thou to us 

Communicat'st, I, through a wish to serve 

Thy interests, and a reverence for those laws 

Which all mankind hold sacred, from thy purpose 

Exhort thee to desist. 

Med. This cannot be : 

Yet I from you, because ye have not felt 

Distress like mine, such language can excuse. 

Chor. Thy guiltless children wilt thou dare to slay.' 
Med. My husband hence more deeply shall I wound 
Chor. But thou wilt of all women be most wretched. 
Med. No matter : all the counsels ye can give 

Are now superfluous. But this instant go 

And Jason hither bring; for on your faith, 

In all things I depend ; nor these resolves 

Will you divulge if you your mistress love. 

And feel a woman's interest in my wrongs. 




I. I. 
Heroes of Erectheus' race, 
To the gods who owe your birth, 
And in a long succession trace 
Your STcred origin from earih, 
Who on wisdom's fruit regale, 
Purest breezes still inhale. 
And behold skies ever bright, 
Wandering through those haunted glades 
Where fame relates that the Pierian maids, 
Soothing the soul of man wiih chaste delight, 
• Taught Harmony to breathe her first enchanting tale. 

I. 2. 
From Cephisus' amber tide, 

At the Cyprian queen's command, 
As sing the Muses, are supplied 
To refresh the thirsty land, 
Fragrant gales of temperate air ; 
While around her auburn hair, 
In a vivid chaplet twined 
Never-fading roses bloom 
And scent the champaign with their rich perfume, 
Love comes in unison with wisdom joined, 
Each virtue thrives if Beauty lend her fostering care. 

II. I. 

For its holy streams renowned 
Can that city, can that state 
Where friendship's generous train are found 
Shelter thee from public hate. 
When, defiled with horrid guilt, 
Thou thy children's blood hast spilt ? 
Think on this atrocious deed 
Era thy dagger aim the blow : 
Around thy knees our suppliant arms we throw ; 
O doom not, doom them not to bleed. 

MEDEA. 139 

II. 2. 

How can thy relentless heart 
All humanity disclaim, 
Thy lifted arm perform its part ? 
Lost to a sense of honest shame. 
Canst thou take their lives away, 
And these guiltless children slay ? 
Soon as thou thy sons shalt view. 
How wilt thou the tear restrain. 
Or with their blood thy ruthless hands distain, 
When prostrate they for mercy sue ? 

Jason, Medea, Chorus. 

JAS. I at your call am come ; for though such hate 
To me you bear, you shall not be denied 
In this request ; but let me hear what else 
You would solicit. 

Med, Jason, I of thee 

Crave pardon for the hasty words I spoke ; 
Since just it were that thou shouldst bear my wrath, 
When by such mutual proofs of love our union 
Hath been cemented. For I reasoned thus. 
And in these terms reproached myself: "O wretch. 
Wretch that I am, what madness fires my breast ? 
Of why 'gainst those who counsel me aright 
Such fierce resentment harbour ? What just cause 
Have I to hate the rulers of this land. 
My husband too, who acts but for my good 
In his espousals with the royal maid. 
That to my sons he hence may r.dd a race 
Of noble brothers ? Shall not I appease 
The tempest of my soul ? Why, when the gods 
Confer their choicest blessings, should I grieve ? 
Have not I helpless children ? Well I know 
That we are banished from Thessalia's realm 
And left without a friend.'' When I these thoughts 
Maturely had revolved, I saw how great 
My folly and how groundless was my wrath. 


Now therefore I commend, now deem thee wise 

In formmg this connection for my sake : 

But I was void of wisdom, or had borne 

A part in these designs, the genial bed 

Obsequiously attended, and with joy 

Performed each menial office for the bride. 

I will not speak in too reproachful terms 

Of my own sex ; but we, weak women, are 

What nature formed us ; therefore our defects 

Thou must not imitate, nor yet return 

Folly for folly. I submit and own 

My judgment was erroneous, but at length 

Have I formed better counsels. O my sons. 

Come hither, leave the palace, from those doors 

Advance, and in a soft persuasive strain 

With me unite your father to accost, 

Forget past enmity, and to your friends 

Be reconciled, for 'twixt us is a league 

Of peace established, and my wrath subsides. 

{The Sons ^ Jason and Medea enter. 
Take hold of his right hand. Ah me, how great 
Are my afflictions oft as I revolve 
A deed of darkness in my labouring soul ! 
How long, alas ! my sons, are ye ordained 
To live, how long to stretch forth those dear arms ? 
Wretch that I am ' how much am I disposed 
To weep .' how subject to each fresh alarm ! 
For I at length desisting from that strife, 
Which with your sire I rashly did maintain. 
Feel gushing tears bedew my tender cheek. 

Chor. Fresh tears too from these eyes have forced 
their way ; 
And may no greater ill than that which now 
We suffer, overtake us ! 

Jas. I applaud 

your present conduct, and your former rage 
Condemn not ; for 'tis natural that the race 
Of u omen should be angry when their lord 
For a new consort trucks them. But your heart 
Is for the better changed, and you, though late. 

MEDEA. 141 

At length acknowledge the resistless power 
Of reason ; this is acting like a dame 
Endued with prudence. But for you, my sons, 
Abundant safety your considerate sire 
Hath with the favour of the gods procured, 
For ye, I trust, shall with my future race 
Bear the first rank in this Corinthian realm, 
Advance to full maturity ; the rest. 
Aided by each benignant god, your father 
Shall soon accomplish. Virtuously trained up 
May I behold you at a riper age 
Obtain pre-eminence o'er those I hate. 
But, ha ! Why with fresh tears do you thus keep 
Those eyelids moist ? From your averted cheeks 
Why is the colour fled, or why these words 
Receive you not with a complacent ear ? 

Med. Nothing : my thoughts were busied for these 

Jas. Be of good courage, and for them depend 
On my protecting care. 

Med. I will obey, 

Nor disbelieve the promise thou hast made : 
But woman, ever frail, is prone to shed 
Involuntary tears. 

Jas. But why bewail 

With such deep groans these children 1 

Med. Them I bore ; 

And that our sons might live, while to the gods 
Thou didst address thy vows, a pitying thought 
Ente: ed my soul ; 'twas whether this could be. 
But of th' affairs on which thou com'st to hold 
This conference with me, have I told a part 
Already, and to thee will now disclose 
The sequel : since the rulers of this land 
Resolve to banish me, as well I know 
That it were best for me to give no umbrage. 
Or to the king of Corinth, or to thee, 
By dwelling here : because I to this house 
Seem to bear enmity, from these domains 
Will I depart ; but urge thy suit to Creon, 


That under thy paternal care our sons 

May be trained up, nor from this realm expelled. 

Jas. Though doubtful of success, I yet am bound 
To make th' attempt. 

Med. Thou rather shouldst enjoin 

Thy bride her royal father to entreat, 
That he these children's exile may reverse. 

Jas. With pleasure ; and I doubt not but on her, 
If like her sex humane, I shall prevail. 

Med. To aid thee in this difficult emprise 
Shall be my care, for I to her will send 
Gifts that I know in beauty far exceed 
The gorgeous works of man ; a tissued vest 
And golden crown the children shall present, 
But with the utmost speed these ornaments 
One of thy menial train must hither bring, 
For not with one, but with ten thousand blessings 
Shall she be gratified ; thee, best of men, 
Obtaining for the partner of her bed. 
And in possession of those splendid robes 
Which erst the sun my grandsire did bestow 
On his descendants : take them in your hr.nds, 
My children, to the happy royal bride 
Instantly bear them, and in dower bestow, 
For such a gift as ought not to be scorned 
Shall she receive. 

Jas. Why rashly part with these ? 

Of tissued robes or gold can you suppose 
The palace destitute .'' These trappings keep, 
Nor to another give : for if the dame 
On me place real value, well I know 
My love she to all treasures will prefer. 

Med. Speak not so hastily : the gods themselves 
By gifts arc swayed, as fame relates ; r,nd gold 
Hath a far greater influence o'er the souls 
Of mortals than the most persuasive words : 
With fortune, the propitious heavens conspire 
To add fresh glories to thy youthful bride, 
All here submits to her despotic sway. 

MEDEA. 143 

But I my children's exile would redeem, 
Though at the cost of life, not gold alone. 
But these adjacent mansions of the king 
Soon as ye enter, O ye little ones, 
Your sire's new consort and my queen entreat 
That ye may not be banished from this land : 
At the same time these ornaments present, 
For most important is it that these gifts 
With her own hands the royal dame receive. 
Go forth, delay not, and, if ye succeed, 
Your mother with the welcome tidings greet. 

[Exeunt jASON and SONS. 



I. I. 

Now from my soul each hope is fled, 
I deem those hapless children dead, 
They rush to meet the wound : 
Mistrustful of no latent pest 
Th' exulting bride will seize the gorgeous vest, 
Her auburn tresses crowned 
By baleful Pluto, shall she stand, 
And take the presents with an eager hand. 

I. 2. 

The splendid robe of thousand dyes 
Will fascinate her raptured eyes. 
And tempt her till she wear 
The golden diadem, arrayed 
To meet her bridegroom in th' infernal shade 
She thus into the snare 
Of death shall be surprised by fate, 
Nor 'scape remorseless Aic's direful hate. 

But as for thee whose nuptials brin^ 
The proud alliance of a king, 


'Midst dangers unespied 

Thou madly rushing, nid'st the blow 

Ordained by Heaven to lay thy children low, 

And thy lamented bride : 

O man, how little dost thou know 

That o'er thy head impends severest woe I 

II. 2, 

Thy anguish I no less bemoan, 
No less for thee, O mother, groan, 

Bent on a horrid deed, 
Thy children who resolv'st to slay. 
Nor fear'st to take their guiltless lives away. 
Those innocents must bleed, 
Because, disdainful of thy charms, 
The husband flies to a new consort's arms. 

Attendant, Sons, Medea, Chorus. 

Att. Your sons, my honoured mistress, are set free 
From banishment ; in her own hands those gifts 
With courtesy the royal bride received ; 
Hence have your sons obtained their peace. 

Med. No matter. 

Att. Why stand you in confusion, when befriended 
By prosperous fortune .'' 

Med. Ah ! 

Ait. This harsh reception 

Accords not with the tidings which I bring. 

Med. Alas I and yet again I say, alas ! 

Att. Have I related with unconscious tongue 
Some great calamity, by the fond hope 
Of bearing glad intelligence misled ? 

Med. For having told what thou hast told, no blame 
To thee do I impute. 

Att. But on the ground 

Why fix those eyes, and shed abundant tears .-' 

Med. Necessity constrains me : for the gods 
Of Erebus and I in evil hour 
Our baleful machinations have devised. 

MEDEA. 145 

Att. Be of good cheer ; for in your childien still 
Are you successful. 

Med. 'Midst the realms of night 

Others I first will plunge. Ah, wretched me ! 

Att. Not you alone are from your children torn, 
Mortal you are, and therefore must endure 
Calamity with patience. 

Med. I these counsels 

Will practise : but go thou into the palace, 
And for the children whatsoe'er to-day 
Is requisite, make ready. [Exit ATTENDANT. 

O my sons ! 
My sons ! ye have a city and a house 
Where, leaving hapless me behind, without 
A mother ye for ever shall reside. 
But I to other realms an exile go, 
Ere any help from you I could derive, 
Or see you blest ; the hymeneal pomp, 
The bride, the genial couch, for you adorn, 
And in these hands the kindled torch sustain. 
How wretched am I through my own p:rverseness ! 
You, O my sons, I then in vain have nurtured, 
In vain have toiled, and, wasted with fatigue, 
Suffered the pregnant matron's grievous throes. 
On you, in my afflictions, many hopes 
I founded erst : that ye with pious care 
Would foster my old age, and on the bier 
Extend me after death— much envied lot 
Of mortals ; but these pleasing anxious thoughts 
Are vanished now ; for, losing you, a life 
Of bitterness and anguish shall I lead. 
But as for you, my sons, with those dear eyes 
Fated no more your mother to behold, 
Hence are ye hastening to a world unknown. 
Why do ye gaze on me with such a look 
Of tenderness, or wherefore smiVs ? for these 
Are your last smiles. Ah wretched, wretched me ! 
What shall I do ? My resolution fails. 
Sparkling v. ith joy now I their looks have seen. 


My friends, I can no more. To those past schemes 

I bid adieu, and with me from this land 

My children will convey. Why should I cause 

A twofold portion of distress to fall 

On my own head, that I may grieve the sire 

By punishing his sons ? This shall not be : 

Such counsels I dismiss. But in my purpose 

What means this change ? Can I prefer derision, 

And with impunity permit the foe 

To 'scape ? My utmost courage I must rouse : 

For the suggestion of these tender thoughts 

Proceeds from an enervate heart. My sons. 

Enter the regal mansion. \Exeunt SONS. 

As for those 
Who deem that to be present were unholy 
While I the destined victims offer up, 
Let them see to it. This uplifted arm 
Shall never shrink. Alas ! alas ! my soul 
Commit not such a deed. Unhappy woman, 
Desist and spare thy children ; we will live 
Together, they in foreign realms shall cheer 
Thy exile. No, by those avenging fiends 
Who dwell with Pluto in the realms beneath, 
This shall not be, nor will I ever leave 
My sons to be insulted by their foes. 
They certainly must die ; since then they miiet, 
I bore and I will slay them : 'tis a deed 
Resolved on, nor my purpose will I change. 
Full well I know that now the royal bride 
Wears on her head the magic diadem, 
And in the variegated robe expires : 
But, hurried on by fate, I tread a path 
Of utter wretchedness, and them will plunge 
Into one yet more wretched. To my sons 
Fain would I say : " O stretch forth your right hands, 
Ye children, for your mother to embrace. 
O dearest hands, ye lips to me most dear, 
Engaging features and ingenuous looks, 
May ye be blest, but in another world ; 


For by the treacherous conduct of your sire 
Are ye bereft of all this earth bestowed. 
Farewell, sweet kisses — tender limbs, farewell ! 
And fragrant breath ! I never more can bear 
To look on you, my children.'' My afflictions 
Have conquered me ; I now am well aware 
What crimes I venture on : but rage, the cause 
Of woes most grievous to the human race, 
Over my better reason hath prevailed. 

Chor. In subtle questions I full many a time 
Have heretofore engaged, and this great point 
Debated, whether woman should extend 
Her search into abstruse and hidden truths. 
But we too have a Muse, who with our sex 
Associates to expound the mystic lore 
Of wisdom, though she dwell not with us all. 
Yet haply a small number may be found, 
Among the multitude of females, dear 
To the celestial Muses. I maintain, 
They who in total inexperience live, 
Nor ever have been parents, are more happy 
Than they to whom much progeny belongs. 
Because the childless, having never tried 
Whether more pain or pleasure from their offspring 
To mortals rises, 'scape unnumbered toils. 
But I observe that they, whose fruitful house 
Is with a lovely race of infants filled, 
Are harassed with perpetual cares ; how first 
To train them up in virtue, and whence leave 
Fit portions for their sons ; but on the good 
Or worthless, whether they these toils bestow 
Remains involved in doubt. I yet must name 
One evil the most grievous, to which all 
The human race is subject ; some there are 
Who for their sons have gained sufficient wealth. 
Seen them to full maturity advance, 
And decked with every virtue, when, by fate 
If thus it be ordained, comes death unseen 
And hurries them to Pluto's gloomy realm. 



Can it be any profit to the gods 

To heap the loss of children, that one ill 

Than all the rest more bitter, on mankind ? 

Med. My friends, with anxious expectation long 
Here have I waited, from within to learn 
How fortune will dispose the dread event. 
But one of Jason's servants I behold 
With breathless speed advancing : his looks show 
That he some recent mischief would relate. 

Messenger, Medea, Chorus. 

Mes. O thou, who impiously hast wrought a deed 
Of horror, fly, Medea, from this land, 
Fly with such haste as not to leave the bark 
Or from the car alight. 

Med. What crime, to merit 

A banishment like this, have I committed ? 

Mes. By thy enchantments is the royal maid 
This instant dead, and Creon, too, her sire. 

Med. Most glorious are the tidings you relate : 
Henceforth shall you be numbered with my friends 
And benefactors. 

Mes. Ha ! what words are these ? 

Dost thou preserve thy senses yet entire ? 
O woman, hath not madness fired thy brain ? 
The wrongs thou to the royal house done 
Hear'st thou with joy, nor shudder'st at the tale ? 

Med. Somewhat I have in answer to your speech : 
But be not too precipitate, my friend ; 
inform me how they died, for twofold joy 
Wilt thou afford, if wretchedly they perished. 

Mes. When with their father thy two sons arrived 
And went into the mansion of the bride, 
We servants, who had shared thy griefs, rejoiced ; 
For a loud rumour instantly prevailed 
That all past strife betwixt thy lord and thee 
Was reconciled. Some kissed the children's hands, 
And some their auburn tresses. I with joy 
To those apartments where the women dwell 

MEDEA. 149 

Attended them. Our mistress, the new object 

Of homage such as erst to thee was paid, 

Ere she beheld thy sons on Jason cast 

A look of fond desire : but then she veiled 

Her eyes, and turned her pallid cheeks away 

Disgusted at their coming, till his voice 

Appeased her anger with these gentle words : 

" O be not thou inveterate 'gainst thy friends, 

But lay aside disdain, thy beauteous face 

Turn hither, and let amity for those 

Thy husband loves still warm that generous breast. 

Accept these gifts, and to thy father sue. 

That, for my sake, the exile of my sons 

He will remit." Soon as the princess saw 

Thy glittering ornaments, she could resist 

No longer, but to all her lord's requests 

Assented, and before thy sons were gone 

Far from the reg'al mansion with their sire, 

The vest, resplendent with a thousand dyes, 

Put on, and o'er her loosely floating hair 

Placing the golden crown, before the mirror 

Her tresses braided, and with smiles surveyed 

Th' inanimated semblance of her chnrms : 

Then rising from her seat across the palace 

Walked with a delicate and graceful step, 

In the rich gifts exulting, and oft turned 

Enraptured eyes on her own stately neck, 

Reflected to her view : but now a scene 

Of horror followed ; her complexion changed. 

And she reeled backward, trembling every limb ; 

Seal ce did her chair receive her as she sunk 

In time to save her falling to the ground. 

One of her menial train, an ?ged dame, 

Possest with an idea that the wrath 

Either of Pan or of some god unknown 

Her mistress had invaded, in shrill tone 

Poured forth a vow to Heaven, till from her mouth 

She saw foim issu^, i.i their sockets roll 

Her wildly glaring eyeballs, and the blood 


Leave her whole frame ; a shriek, that differed far 

From her first plaints, then gave she. In an instant 

This to her father's house, and that to tell 

The bridegroom the mischance which had befallen 

His consort, rushed impetuous ; through the dome 

The frequent steps of those who to and fro 

Ran in confusion did resound. But soon 

As the fleet courser at the goal arrives, 

She who was silent, and had closed her eyes, 

Roused from her swoon, and burst forth into groans 

Most dreadful, for 'gainst her two evils warred : 

Placed on her head the golden crown poured forth 

A wondrous torrent of devouring flames, 

And the embroidered robes, thy children's gifts, 

Preyed on the hapless virgin's tender flesh ; 

Covered with fire she started from her seat 

Shaking her hair, and from her head the crown 

With violence attempting to remove. 

But still more firmly did the heated gold 

Adhere, and the fanned blaze with double lustre 

Burst forth as she her streaming tresses shook : 

Subdued by fate, at length she to the ground 

Fell prostrate : scarce could any one have known her 

Except her father ; for those radiant eyes 

Dropped from their sockets, that majestic face 

Its wonted features lost, and blood with fire 

Ran down her head in intermingled streams. 

While from her bones the flesh, like weeping pitch, 

Melted away, througli the consuming power 

Of those unseen enchantments ; 'twas a sight 

Most horrible : all feared to touch the corpse. 

For her disastrous end had taught us caution. 

Meanwhile her hapless sire, who knew not aught 

Of this calamity, as he with haste 

Entered the palace, stumbled o'er her body ; 

Instantly shrieking out, then with his arms 

Infolded, kissed it oft, and, " O my child, 

My wretched child," exclaimed ; " what envious god, 

Author of thy dishonourable fall. 

MEDEA. 151 

Of thee bereaves an old decrepit man 

Whom the grave claims ? With thee I wish to die, 

My daughter." Scarcely had the hoary father 

These lamentations ended ; to uplift 

His feeble body striving, he adhered 

(As ivy with its pliant tendrils clings 

Around the laurel) to the tissued vest. 

Dire was the conflict ; he to raise his knee 

From earth attempted, but his daughter's corse 

Still held him down, or if with greater force 

He dragged it onward, from his bones he tore 

The aged flesh ; at length he sunk, and breathed 

In agonizing pangs his soul away; 

For he against such evil could bear up 

No longer. To each other close in death 

The daughter and her father lie : their fate 

Demands our tears. Warned by my words, with haste 

From this domain convey thyself, or vengeance 

Will overtake thee for this impious deed. 

Not now for the first time do I esteem 

Human affairs a shadow. Without fear 

Can I pronounce, they who appear endued 

With wisdom, and most plausibly trick out 

Specious harangues, deserve to be accounted 

The worst of fools. The man completely blest 

Exists not. Some in overflowing wealth 

May be more fortunate, but none are happy. 

Chor. Heaven its collected store of evil seems 
This day resolved with justice to pour down 
On perjured Jason. Thy untimely fate 
How do we pity, O thou wretched daughter 
Of Creon, who in Pluto's mansions go'st 
To celebrate thy nuptial feast. 

Med. My friends, 

I am resolved, as soon as I have slain 
My children, from these regions to depart, 
Nor through inglorious sloth will I abandon 
My sons to perish by detested hands ; 
They certainly must die : since then they must, 


I bore and I will slay Ihem. O my heart I 

Be armed with tenfold firmness. Wliat avails it 

To loiter, when inevitable ills 

Remain to be accomplished ? Take the sword, 

And, O my hand, on to the goal that ends 

Their life, nor let one intervening thought 

Of pity or maternal tenderness 

Suspend thy purpose : for this one short day 

Forget how fondly thou didst love thy sons, 

How bring them forth, and after that lament 

Their cruel fate : although thou art resolved 

To slay, yet hast thou ever held them dear. 

But I am of ;ill women the mort wretched. 

l^Exit Medea. 



Earth, and thou sun, whose fervid blaze 
From pole to pole illumes each distant land, 
View this abnndomed woman, ere she raise 
Against her children's lives a ruthless hand : 

For from thy race, divinely bright. 
They spring, and should the sons of gods be slain 

By man, 'twere dreadful. O restrain 
Her fury, thou celestial source of light. 
Ere she with blood pollute your regal dome. 
Chased by the demons hence let this Erinnys roam. 

The pregnant matron's throes in vain 
Hast thou endured, and borne a lovely race, 
O thou, who o'er th' inhospitable main, 
Where the Cyanean rocks scarce leave a space. 

Thy daring voyage didst pursue. 
Why, O thou wretch, thy soul doth anger rend. 

Such as in murder soon must end ? 
They who with kindred gore are stained shall rue 
Their guilt inexpiable : full well I know 
The gods will on this house inflict severest woe. 

MEDEA. 153 

1st Son \within^ Ah me ! what can I do, or whither fly 
To 'scape a mother's arm ? 

2nd Son \within?\ I cannot tell : 

For, O my dearest brother, v. e are lost. 

Chor. Heard you the children's shrieks ? I (O thou 
Whom woes and evil fortune still attend) 
Will rush into the regal dome, from death 
Resolved to snatch thy sons. 

1st Son {within^ We by the gods 

Conjure you to protect us in this hour 
Of utmost peril, for the treacherous snare 
Hath caught us, and we perish by the sword. 

Chor. Art thou a rock, O wretch, or steel, to slay 
With thine own hand that generous race of sons 
Whom thou didst bear ? 1 hitherto have heard 
But of one woman, who in ancient days 
Smote her dear children, Ino, by the gods 
With frenzy stung, when Jove's malignant queen 
Distracted from her mansion drove her forth . 
But she, yet reeking with the impious gore 
Of her own progeny, into the waves 
Plunged headlong from the ocean's craggy beach. 
And shared with her two sons one common fate. 
Can there be deeds more horrible than these 
Left for succeeding ages to produce .-' 
Disastrous union with the female sex. 
How great a source of woes art thou to man ! 

Jason, Chorus. 
Jas. Ye dames who near the portals stand, is she 
Who hath committed these atrocious crimes, 
Medea, in the palace, or by flight 
Hath she retreated ? For beneath the ground 
Must she conceal herself, or, borne on wings, 
Ascend the heights of Ether, to avoid 
The vengeance due for Corinth's royal house. 
Having destroyed the rulers of the land, 
Can she presume she shall escape unhurt 
From these abodes ? But less am I concerned 


On her account, than for my sons ; since they 
Whom she hath injured will on her inflict 
Due punishment : but hither am I come 
To save my children's lives, lest on their heads 
The noble Creon's kindred should retaliate 
That impious murder by their mother wrought. 

Chor. Thou know'st not yet, O thou unhappy man, 
What ills thou art involved in, or these words 
Had not escaped thee. 

Jas. Ha, what ills are these 

Thou speak'st of? Would she also murder me ? 

Chor. By their own mother's hand thy sons are slain. 

Jas. What can you mean ? How utterly, O woman, 
Have you undone me ! 

Chor. Be assured thy children 

Are now no more. 

Jas, Where was it, or within 

Those mansions or without, that she destroyed 
Our progeny ? 

Chor. As soon as thou these doors 

Hast oped, their weltering corses wilt thou view. 

Jas. Loose the firm bars and bolts of yonder gates 
With speed, ye servants, that I may behold 
This scene of twofold misery, the remains 
Of the deceased, and punish her who slew them. 

Medea, in a chariot drawn by dragons, jASON, Chorus. 

Med, With levers wherefore dost thou shake those doors 
In quest of them who are no more, and me 
Who dared to perpetrate the bloody deed .■' 
Desist from such unprofitable toil : 
But if there yet be aught that thou with me 
Canst want, speak freely whatsoe'er thou wilt : 
For with that hand me never shalt thou reach, 
Such steeds the sun my grandsire gives to whirl 
This chariot and protect me from my foes. 

Jas. O most abandoned woman, by the gods. 
By me and all the human race abhorred, 
Who with the sword could pierce the sons you bore, 

MEDEA. 155 

And ruin me, a childless wretched man, 

Yet after you this impious deed have dared 

To perpetrate, still view the radiant sun 

And fostering earth ; may vengeance overtake you ! 

For I that reason have regained which erst 

Forsook me, when to the abodes of Greece 

I from your home, from a Barbarian realm, 

Conveyed you, to your sire a grievous bane, 

And the corrupt betrayer of that land 

Which nurtured you. Some envious god first roused 

Your evil genius from the shades of hell 

For my undoing : after you had slain 

Your brother at the altar, you embarked 

In the famed Argo. Deeds like these a life 

Of guilt commenced ; with me in wedlock joined, 

You bore those sons, whom you have now destroyed 

Because I left your bed. No Grecian dame 

Would e'er have ventured on a deed so impious ; 

Yet I to them preferred you for my bride : 

This was a hostile union, and to me 

The most destructive ; for my arms received 

No woman, but a lioness more fell 

Than Tuscan Scylla. Vainly should I strive 

To wound you with reproaches numberless, 

For you are grown insensible of shame ! 

Vile sorceress, and polluted with the blood 

Of your own children, perish — my hard fate 

While I lament, for I shall ne'er enjoy 

My lovely bride, nor with those sons, who owe 

To me their birth and nurture, ever hold 

Sweet converse. They, alas ! can live no more, 

Utterly lost to their desponding sire. 

Med. Much could I say in answer to this charge, 
Were not the benefits from me received. 
And thy abhorred ingratitude, well known 
To Jove, diead sire. Yet was it not ordained, 
Scorning my bed, that thou shouldst lead a life 
Of fond delight, and ridicule my griefs ; 
Nor that the royal virgin thou didst wed, 


Or Creon, who to thee his daughter gave, 
Should drive me from these regions unavenged. 
A lioness then call me if thou wilt, 
Or by the name of Scylla, whose abode 
Was in Eirurian caverns. For tiiy heart, 
As justice prompted, in my turn I wounded. 

Jas. You grieve, and are the partner of my woes. 

Med. Be well assured I am : but what assuages 
My grief is this, that thou no more canst scoff. 

Jas. How vile a mother, O my sons, was yours ! 

Med. How did ye perish through your father's lust ! 

Jas. But my right hand was guiltless of their death. 

Med. Not so thy cruel taunts, and that new marriage. 

Jas. Was my new marriage a sufficient cause 
For thee to murder them ? 

Med. Canst thou suppose 

Such wrongs sit light upon the female breast .-' 

Jas. On a chaste w oman's ; but your soul abounds 
With wickedness. 

Med. Thy sons are now no more, 

This will afflict thee. 

Jas. OVr your head, alas ! 

They now two evil geniuses impend. 

Med. The gods know who these ruthless deeds began. 

Jas. They know the hateful temper of your soul. 

Med. In detestation thee I hold, and loathe 
Thy conversation. 

Jas. Yours too I abhor ; 

But we with ease may settle on what terms 
To part for ever. 

Med. Name those terms. Say how 

Shall I proceed ? For such my ardent wish. 

Jas. Let me inter the dead, and o'er them weep. 

Med. Thou sh. It not. For their corses with this hand 
Am I resolved to bury in the grove 
Sacred to awful Juno, who protects 
The citadel of Corinth, lest their fo:s 
Insult them, and wiih impious rage pluck up 
The monumental stone. I in this realm 

MEDEA., 157 

Of Sisyphus moreover will ordain 
A solemn festival and mystic rites, 
To make a due atonement fur my guilt 
In having slain them. To Erectheus' land 
I now am on my road, where I shall dwell 
With yEgeus, great Pandion's son ; but thou 
Shalt vilely perish as thy crimes deserve, 
Beneath the shattered relics of thy bark, 
The Argo, crushed ; such is the bitter end 
Of our espousals and thy faith betrayed. 

Jas. May the Erinnys of our slaughtered sons, 
And justice, who requites each murderous deed, 
Destroy you utterly ! 

Med. Will any god 

Or demon hear thy curses, O thou wretch, 
False to thy oath, and to the sacred laws 
Of hospitality ? 

Jas. Most impious woman, 

Those hands yet reeking wiih your children's gore — 

Med. Go to the palace, and inter thy bride. 

Jas. Bereft of both my sons, I thither go. 

Med. Not yet enough lament'st thou : to increase 
Thy sorrows, mayst thou live till thou art old ! 

Jas. Ye dearest children. 

Med. To their mother dear, 

But not to thee. 

Jas. Yet them have you destroyed. 

Med. That I might punish thee. 

Jas. One more fond kiss 

On their loved lips, ah me ! would I imprint. 

Med. Now wouldst thou speak to them, and in thine arms 
Clasp those whom living thou didst banish hence. 

Jas. Allow me, 1 conjure you by the gods. 
My children's tender bodies to embrace. 

Med. Thou shalt not : these presumptuous words in vain 
By thee were hazarded. 

Jas. Jove, licai'st thou this. 

How I with scorn am driven away, how wronged 
By that detested lioness, whose fangs 


Have slain her children ? Yet shall my loud plaints, 

While here I fix my seat, if 'tis allowed, 

And this be possible, call down the gods 

To witness that you hinder me from touching 

My murdered sons, and paying the deceased 

Funereal honours. Would to Heaven I ne'er 

Had seen them born to perish by your hand ! 

Chor. Throned on Olympus, with his sovereign nod, 
Jove unexpectedly performs the schemes 
Divine foreknowledge planned ; our firmest hopes 
Oft fail us : but the god still finds the means 
Of compassing what man could ne'er have looked for; 
And thus doth this important business end. 

The Phcenician Damsels. 





Chorus of Phcenician Damsels. 





Another Me.ssenger. 

SCENE — An Open Court before the Palace at Thebes. 


O THOU, who through the starry heavens divid'st 

Thy path, and on a golden chariot sitt'st 

Exalted, radiant sun, beneath the hoofs 

Of whose swift steeds the fiery volumes roll, 

How inauspicious, o'er the Theban race 

Didst thou dart forth thy beams, the day when Cadmus 

Came to this land from the Phoenician coast. 

He erst obtained Harmonia for his bride, 

Daughter of Venus ; of their loves the fruit 

Was Polydorus, and from him, as fame 

Relates, descended Labdacus, the sire 

Of Laius. From Menasceus I derive 

My birth ; my brother Creon and myself 

From the same mother spring : but I am called 

Jocasta, 'twas the name my father gave ; 

Me royal Laius married ; but when long 

Our bed had proved unfruitful, he to search 

The oracle of Phoebus went, and sued 

To the prophetic god, that he our house 

Would cheer with an auspicious race of sons : 


The god replied, '" Beware, O thou who rul'st 

The martial Thebans, strive not to obtain 

A progeny against the will of Heaven : 

If thou beget a son, that son shall slay thee, 

And all thy household shall be plunged in blood." 

He overcome by lust, and flushed with wine, 

In an unguarded moment disobeyed : 

But I no sooner had brought forth the child, 

Than he, grown conscious of his foul offence 

Against Apollo's mandate, to his shepherds 

The new-born infant gave, in Juno's meads. 

And on Cithccron's hill, to be exposed. 

Maiming his feet with pointed steel, whence Greece 

Hath called him Oidipus. But they who fed 

The steeds of Polypus, soon taking up, 

Conveyed him to their home, and in the hands 

Of their kind mistress placed, she at her breast 

Nurtured my son, and artfully persuaded 

Her lord that she was mother to the boy : 

Soon as the manly beard his cheek o'erspread, 

Aware from his own knowledge, or infonned 

Of the deceit, solicitous to learn 

Who were his parents, to Apollo's shrine 

He journeyed ; and at the same time was Laius, 

My husband, hastening hither, to inquire 

Whether the child he had exposed was dead. 

In Phocis, where two severed roads unite, 

They met : the charioteer of Lnius cried 

In an imperious tone, " Give way to kings. 

Thou stranger" : yet the silent youth advanced. 

With inborn greatness fired, till o'er his feet 

Distained with gore the steel-hoofed coursers trod ; 

Hence (for what need have I to speak of aught 

That's foreign to my woes ?) th' unconscious son 

Slew his own father, seized the spoils, and gave 

To Polybus, who nurtured him, the car. 

But when with ruthless fangs the Sphynx laid waste 

The city, and my husband was no more. 

My brother Creon by the herald's voice 


Proclaimed that whosoever could expound 
Th' enigma by that crafty virgin forged 
Should win me for his bride : that mystic clue 
The luckless Qldipus, my son, unravelled; 
Hence o'er this land appointed king, he gained 
For his reward a sceptre — wretched youth I — 
Unwittingly espousing me who bore him ; 
Nor yet was I his mother then aware 
That we committed incest. I produced 
To my own son four children ; two were males, 
Eteocles and Polynices, famed 
For martial prowess ; daughters two, the one 
Her father called Ismene, but the first 
I named Antigone. Soon as he learned 
That I whom he had wedded was his mother, 
The miserable Oedipus, o'erwhelmed 
With woes accumulated, from their sockets 
Tore with a golden clasp his bleeding eyes. 
But since the beard o'ershaded my sons' cheeks, 
Their sire they in a dungeon have confined, 
The memory of this sad event t' efface, 
For which they needed every subtle art. 
Within these mansions he still lives, but, sick 
With evil fortunes, on his sons pours forth 
The most unholy curses, that this house 
They by the sword may portion out. Alarmed 
Lest Heaven those vows accomplish if they dwell 
Together, they by compact have resolved 
The younger brother Polynices first 
A voluntary exile shall depart, 
And, with Eteocles remaining here 
To wield the sceptre of this realm, exchange 
His station year by year : but th' elder-born 
Since he was seated on the lofty throne 
Departs not thence, and from this land expels 
The injured Polynices, who, to Argos 
Repairing, with Adrastus hath contracted 
Most strict affinity, and hither brings 
A numerous squadron of heroic youths ; 


These bulwarks for their sevenfold gates reno^\^led 

E'en now in arms approaching, he demands 

His father's sceptre, and an equal share 

Of the domain. But I to end their strife 

On Polynices have prevailed to come, 

Under the sanction of a warrior's faith 

And parley with his brother, ere the hosts 

In battle join : the messenger I sent 

Informs me he the summons will attend. 

thou who dwell'st amidst Heaven's lucid folds, 
Save us, dread Jove, and reconcile my children : 
For thou, if thou art wise, wilt ne'er permit 
That one poor mortal should be always wretched, 


Antigone, Attendant. 

Att. O fair Antigone, illustrious blossom 
Of your paternal house, since from your chamber 
Your mother hath allowed you to come forth 
At your request, and from these roofs behold 
The Argive hosts, stay here, while I the road 
Explore, lest in our passage, if we meet 
Some citizen, malignant tongues should blame 
Both me, the servant, who obey, and you 
For giving such command. But their whole camp 
Since I have searched", to you will I relate 
All that these eyes have witnessed, and whate'er 

1 heard amidst the Argives, when, employed 
By both your brothers, I 'twixt either host 

Bore pledges of their compact. But these mansions 
No citizen approaches : haste, ascend 
Yon ancient stairs of cedar, and o'erlook 
The spacious fields that skirt Ismenos' stream 
And Dirce's fountains. What a host of foes ! 

Ant. Thy aged arm stretch forth, and, as I climb 
The narrow height, my tottering steps sustain. 

Att. Give me your hand, for at a lucky hour 
You mount the turret : the Pelasgian host 
Is now in motion, and the troops divide. 


Ant. Thou venerable daughter of Latona, 
Thrice sacred goddess, Hecate, how gleams 
With brazen armour the whole field around ! 

Att. For Polynices to his native land 
Returns not like a man of little note, 
But comes in anger, by unnumbered steeds 
Attended, and the loudest din of arms. 

Ant. Are the gates closed? What barriers guard the walls 
Reared by Amphion's skill ? 

Att. Be of good cheer. 

The city is made safe within. But look 
At him who first advances, if you wish 
To know him. 

Ant. By those snowy plumes distinguished, 

Before the ranks who marches in the van, 
With ease sustaining on his nervous arm 
That brazen shield .-• 

Att. a general, royal maid. 

Ant. Who is he .? In what country was he born, 
Old man, infonn me, and what name he bears. 

Att. Mycene glories in the warrior's birth, 
But near the marsh of Lema he resides ; 
His name's Hippomedon, a mighty chief. 

Ant. Ah, with what pride, how terrible an aspect, 
How like an earthborn giant doth he move ! 
His targe with stars is covered, and that air 
Resembles not the feeble race of man. 

Att. Behold you not the chief who Dirce's stream 
Is crossing ! 

Ant. In what different armour clad ! 

But who is he ? 

Att. Tydeus, the noble son 

Of CEneus ; in embaitled fields his breast 
With true ^tolian courage is inspired. 

Ant. Is he, O veteran, husband to the sister 
Of Polynices' consort .'' How arrayed 
In party-coloured mail, a half Barbarian ! 

Att. All the ^Etolians, O my daughter, armed 
With bucklers, can expertly hurl the lance. 



Ant. But whence, old man, art thou assured of this ? 

Att. The various figures wrought upon the shields 
I noticed at the time I from the walls 
Went to your brother with the pledge of truce : 
When these I see, their wearers well I know. 

Ant. But who is he who moves round Zethus tomb, 
A youth with streaming ringlets, and with eyes 
Horribly glaring ? 

Att. He too is a chief. 

Ant. What multitudes in burnished armour clad 
Follow his steps ! 

Att. From Atalanta sprur. 

Parthenopaeus is the name he bears. 

Ant. May Dian, who o'er craggy mountain speeds, 
Attended by his mother, with her shafts 
Transpierce th' audacious youth who comes to sack 
My city ! 

Att. These rash vows suppress, O daughter, 
For they with justice these domains invade, 
And therefore will the gods, I fear, discern 
Their better cause. 

Ant. But where is he, whom Fate 

Decreed in evil hour from the same womb 
With me to spring .? Say, O thou dear old man, 
Where's Polynices ? 

Att. He beside the tomb 

Of Niobe's seven virgin daughters stands 
Close to Adrastus. See you him ? 

Ant. I see him, 

But not distinctly ; I can just discern 
A faint resemblance of that kindred form. 
The image of that bosom. Would to heaven, 
Borne on the skirts of yonder passing cloud, 
Through the ethereal paths, I with these feet 
Could to my brother urge my swift career ! 
Then would I fling my arms round the dear neck 
Of him who long hath been a wretched exile. 
How gracefully, in golden arms arrayed, 
Bright as Hyperion's radiant beams, he moves ! 


Att. To fill your soul with joy, the chief, these doors, 
Secured by an inviolable truce, 
Anon will enter. 

Ant. O thou aged man ; 

But who is he who on yon chariot, drawn 
By milk-white coursers, seated, guides the reins ? 

Att, The seer Amphiareus, O royal maid, 
He bears the victims that with crimson tides 
Must drench the ground. 

Ant. Encircled with a zone 

Of radiance, O thou daughter of the sun, 
Pale moon, who from his beams thy golden orb 
Illum'st, behold with what a steady thong 
And how discreetly he those coursers guides ! 
But where is Capaneus, who proudly utters 
Against this city the most horrid threats ? 

Att. To these seven turrets each approach he marks, 
The walls from their proud summit to their base 
Measuring with eager eye. 

Ant. Dread Nemesis, 

Ye too, O deep-toned thunderbolts of Jove, 
And livid flames of lightning ; yours, 'tis yours 
To blast such arrogance. Is this the man 
Who vowed that he the captive Theban dames, 
In slavery plunged, would to Mycene lead, 
To Lerna, where the god of ocean fixed 
His trident, whence its waters bear the name 
OfAmyone? But, O child of Jove, 
Diana, venerable queen, who bind'st 
Thy streaming tresses with a golden caul. 
Never may I endure the loathsome yoke 
Of servitude. 

Att. The royal mansion enter, 

O daughter, and beneath its roof remain 
In your apartment, since you have indulged 
Your wish, and viewed those objects you desired. 
A tumult in the city now prevails : 
The women to the palace rush in crowds. 
For the whole female sex are prone to slander, 


And soon as they som3 slight occasion find, 

On which maligr.Ent rumours they can ground, 

Add many more : for on such baneful themes 

To them is it delighful to converse. {^Exeunt. 



I. I. 
Borne from Phoenician shores I crossed the deep. 
My tender years to Phoebus they consign 
To sprinkle incense on his shrine, 
And dwell beneath Parnassus' steep, 
O'erspread with everlasting snow : 
Our dashing oars were plied in haste 
Through the Ionian wave, whose eddies flow 
Round Sicily's inhospitable waste ; 
Then vernal zephyrs breathed our s:iils around, 
And Heaven's high-vaulted roof conveyed the murmuring 

I. 2. 

A chosen offering to the Delphic god, 
I from my native city to this land, 

Where aged Cadmus bore command, 

Am come, obedient to the nod 

Of those who from Agenor spring, 

To the proud towers of Laius' race. 
Our kindred governed by a kindred king. 
Here stand I, like an image on its base, 
Though destined to partake refined delights, 
Bathe in Castalia's stream, and tend Apollo's rites. 


O mountain, from whose cloven height 

There darts a double stream of light, 
Oft on thy topmost ridge the Menades are seen, 
And thou, each day distilling generous wine, 
O plant of Bacchus, whose ripe clusters shine, 

Blushing through the leafs faint green ; 

Ye caves, in. which the Python lay, 


And hills, from whence Apollo twanged his bow, 
Around your heights o'erspread with snow, 

'Midst my loved virgin comrades may I stray, 

Each anxious fear expelling from my breast, 

In the world's centre, that auspicious fane 
The residence of Phoebus blest. 
And bid adieu to Dirce's plain. 

II. I. 
But now before these walls doth Mars advance, 
And brandish slaughter's flaming torch around; 

May Thebes ne'er feel the threatened wound. 

For to a friend his friend's mischance 

Is grievous as his own : each ill 

That lights upon these sevenfold towers 
With equal woe Phoenicia's realm must fill : 
For Thebes I mourn ; since, of one blood with ours 
From lo's loves this nation dates its birth, 
Those sorrows I partake which vex my kindred earth. 

II. 2. 
Thick as a wintiy cloud that phalanx stands. 
Whose gleaming shields portend the bloody fight, 

The god of war with stern delight 

Shall to the siege those hostile bands 

Lead on, and rouse the fiends to smite 

The race of an incestuous bed : 
Much, O Pelasgian Argos, much thy might. 
And more the vengeance of the gods I dread ; 
For, armed with justice, on his native land 
Rushes that banished youth, the sceptre to demand. 

PoLYNiCES, Chorus. 
Pol. They who were stationed to observe the gates 
Unbarred them, and with courtesy received me 
As I the fortress entered : hence I fear 
Lest, now they in their wily toils have caught, 
They should detain and slay me ; I with eyes 
Most vigilant must therefore look around 
To guard 'gainst treachery : but the sword which arms 


This hand shall give me courage. Ho ! who's there ? 

Doth a mere sound alarm me ? All things seem, 

E'en to the bravest, dreadful, when they march 

O'er hostile ground. I in my mother placed 

Firm confidence, yet hardly can I trust 

Her who on me prevailed t' accept the pledge 

And hither come. But I have near at hand 

A sure asylum, for the blazing altars 

Are not remote, nor yet is yonder house 

Without inhabitants. Be sheathed my sword. 

Those courteous nymphs who at the portals stand 

I'll question. O ye foreign damsels, say, 

What was the country whence to Greece ye came .'' 

Chor. Phoenicia is my native land, I there 
Was nurtured : but Agenor's martial race 
Me, the first fruit of their victorious arms, 
A votive offering to Apollo sent, 
But to the venerable prophetic domes, 
And blazing shrines of Phoebus, when the son 
Of CEdipus prepared to have conveyed me. 
The Argives 'gainst this city led their host. 
Now in return inform me who thou art 
Who com'st to Thebes, o'er whose seven gates are reared 
As many turrets. 

Pol. Qidipus, the son 

Of Laius, was my sire : Menaeceus' daughter 
Jocasta brought me forth ; the name I bear 
Is Polynices. 

Chor. O, illustrious king, 

Thou kinsman to Agenor's race, my lords 
By whom I was sent hither, at thy feet, 
I as the usage of my country bids 
Prostrate myself. Thou to thy native land 
After a tedious absence art returned. 
But ho ! come forth, thou venerable dame, 
Open the doors ! O mother of the chief, 
Hear'st thou my voice ? Why yet dost thou delay 
To cross the lofty palace, and with speed 
In those fond arms thy dearest son enfold .-* 



Joe. Within the palace, O Phoenician nymphs, 
Hearing your voice, I with a tardy step, 
Trembling through age, creep hither. O my son, 
At length I, after many days, once more 
Behold that face. Fling fling those arms around 
The bosom of your mother ; those loved cheeks 
Let me embrace, and with your azure tresses, 
My neck o'ershadowing, mix my streaming hair. 
To these maternal arms you scarce return, 
Till hope and expectation both had failed. 
O how shall I accost you, how impart 
To my whole frame the transports of my soul. 
And all around me, wheresoe'er I turn, 
Bid pleasures past and distant years revive ? 
My son, you left this mansion of your sire 
A desert, by your haughty brother wronged 
And exiled from your country. By each friend 
How greatly hath your absence been bewailed ! 
How greatly by all Thebes ! My hoary locks 
Hence did 1 sever from this aged head, 
Hence weeping utter many piteous notes, 
And, O my son, the tissued robes of white 
Which erst I wore, exchange for sable weeds, 
These loathed habiliments. Within the palace 
Your father, of his eyesight reft, bewails 
The disunited pillars of his house : 
Resolved to slay himself, he sometimes strives 
To rush on the drawn sword ; then searches r&und 
For the high beam to fix the gliding noose, 
Groaning forth imprecations 'gainst his son ; 
Thus, uttering with shrill tone his clamorous plaints. 
He lives, encompassed by perpetual night. 
But, ah I my son, by wedlock's strictest bonds 
United, I am told that you enjoy 
A foreign consort, in a foreign realm. 
To vex your mother's soul and the stern ghost 
Of Laius ; on such ill-assorted nuptials 


Curses attend. The Hymeneal torch 

I kindled not to grace your spousal rites, 

As custom hath ordained, and it behoves 

A happy mother ; nor his cooling stream 

To fill the laver did Ismenos yield ; 

Nor on th' arrival of thy royal bride 

Through Thebes were festive acclamations heard. 

Perish the cause of this unnatural war, 

Be it or sword, or discord, of your sire, 

Or fate, whose horrors revel in the house 

Of CEdipus : for these disasters sling 

My soul with anguish. 

Chor. Great endearments rise 

From pangs maternal, and all women love 
Their progeny. 

Pol. Amidst my foes I come, 

mother, whether wisely or unwisely, 

Great are my doubts : but all men are constrained 

To love their country. He who argues aught 

Against a truth so clear in empty words 

Takes pleasure, while his heart confutes his tongue. 

Yet with such panic terror was I seized, 

Lest by some stratagem my brother slay me, 

That, bearing a drawn falchion in my hand, 

1 cast my eyes around on every side 
As I the city traversed : my sole trust 

Is in the truce he swore to, and thy faith, 

Which led me to this mansion of my sire : 

Yet as I came full many a tear I shed, 

After long absence, to behold the palace. 

The sacred altars of the gods, that ring 

Where wrestlers strive, scene of my youthful sports, 

And Dirce's fountain. Hence unjustly driven 

I in a foreign city dwell, and steep 

These eyes in tears incessant. But to add 

Grief to my griefs, thee with thy tresses shorn 

I see, and in a sable vest arrayed. 

Wretch that I am ! How dreadful and how hard 

To reconcile, is enmity 'twixt those 


Of the same house, O mother ! But how fares 
My aged sire within, whose eyes are closed 
In total darkness ? how, my sisters twain ? 
Bewail they not their exiled brother's fate ? 

Joe. Some god hath smitten the devoted house 
Of CEdipus. I first 'gainst Heaven's decrees 
Brought forth a son, and in an evil hour 
Wedded that son, to whom your owe your birth. 
But wherefore should I dwell upon these scenes 
Of horror ? It behoves us to bear up 
Under the woes inflicted by the gods. 
How shall I ask the questions which I wish ? — 
Fearing to wound your soul— yet to propose them 
Is my desire most urgent. 

Pol, Question me, 

Leave nought unsaid : for, O my dearest mother. 
Whatever is thy pleasure will to me 
Seem grateful. 

Joe With what most I wish to know 

Will I begin my questions. Is not exile 
A grievous ill ? 

Pol. Most grievous, and indeed 

Worse than in name. 

Joe. How happens this .'' Whence rises 

The misery of the banished man ? 

Pol, He's subject 

To one severe calamity — he wants 
Freedom of speech. 

Joe. The wretch of whom you talk, 

Who utters not his thoughts, is but a slave. 

Pol. The follies of their rulers they must bear. 

Joe. This were a piteous doom, to be constrained 
To imitate th' unwise. 

Pol. If gain ensue, 

We must submit, though nature's voice forbid. 

Joe. Hopes, it is said, the hungry exile feed. 

Pol. With smiles they view him, but are slow to aid. 

Joe. Doth not time prove their falsehood? 

Pol. They possess 


An influence equal to the Queen of Love ; 
They banish every sorrow from the breast. 

Joe. But whence procured you food, ere you obtained 
A sustenance by wedlock ? 

Pol. For the day 

At times I had sufficient, but at times 
Was wholly destitute. 

Joe. Your father's friends, 

And they who shared his hospitable board, 
Did they not aid you ? 

Pol. Be thou ever blest ! 

For I'.e who is unhappy hath no friend. 

Joe. But did not your illustrious birth advance you 
To some exalted station 1 

Pol. a great curse 

Is poverty : this high descent with food 
Supplied me not. 

Joe. To all mankind it seems 

Their native land's most dear. 

Pol. Words have not power 

1' express what love I for my country feel. 

Joe. But why to Argos went you, what design 
Had you then formed ? 

Pol. Apollo to Adrastus 

Pronounced a certain oracle. 

Joe. What mean you ? 

I cannot comprehend. 

Pol. That he in wedlock 

Should join his daughters to the boar and lion. 

Joe. How did the names of these ferocious beasts 
Rt-late to you, my son ? 

Pol. I cannot tell. 

To this adventure was I called by fortune. 

Joe. That goddess is discreet: but by what means 
Did you obtain your consort ? 

Pol. It was nigh 

When to Adrastus' vestibule I came. 

Joe. To seek your lodging, like a banished vagrant t 

Pol. E'en so : and there I met another exile. 

Joe. Who was he ? Him most wretched too I deem. 


Pol. Tydeus, the son of CEneus, I am told. 

Joe. But wherefore did Adrastus to wild beasts 
Compare you ? 

Pol. From our fighting for a den. 

Joe. Did then the son of Talaus thus expound 
The oracles ? 

Pol. And on us two bestowed 

His daughters. 

Joe. But have these espousals proved 

Happy, or inauspicious ? 

Pol. I have found 

No reason yet to curse the day I wedded. 

Joe. Yet how prevailed you on a foreign host 
Hither to follow you ? 

Pol. Adrastus sware 

To Tydeus and myself, his sons-in-law 
(Who now by strict affinity are joined), 
That both of us he in our native realms 
Will reinstate, but Polynices first. 
Unnumbered Argives and Mycene's chiefs 
Crowd to my banners, a lamented succour, 
But such as stern necessity demands. 
Affording : for my country I invade. 
Yet witness for me, O ye righteous gods, 
'Tis with reluctance that I wield the spear 
Against my dearest parents. But to thee, 
O mother, it belongs to end this strife. 
To reconcile two brothers, and to cause 
My toils, and thine, and those of Thebes, to cease. 
Indulge me while I quote an ancient maxim : 
" Of human honours riches are the source, 
And rule with power supreme the tribes of men." 
In quest of wealth I hither come, and lead 
Unnumbered squadrons to the dubious field. 
For indigent nobility is scorned. 

Chor. But lo ! Eteocles himself repairs 
To th' appointed conference. In such terms 
As may restore peace 'twixt thy sons, be thine, 
Jocasta, the maternal task t' address them. 


Eteocles, Polynices, Jocasta, Chorus. 

Ete. With your request, O mother, to comply, 
Hithei I come : but what must now be done ? 
Let others speak before me. For the squadrons 
I round the walls have marshalled, and restrained 
The ardour of the city, till I hear 
What terms of peace you would propose, what views 
Within these walls induced you to receive 
My brother, by the public faith secured, 
Extorting my consent. 

Joe. Yet pause awhile ; 

For haste is incompatible with justice : 
But slow deliberations oft effect 
Such schemes as wisdom dictates. Lay aside 
Those threatening looks, that vehemence of soul ; 
For thou behold'st not the terrific head 
Lopped from Medusa's shoulders, but behold'st 
Thy brother coming. Your benignant eyes, 
O Polynices, on your brother turn, 
For while you look upon that kindred face 
You will speak better, and his words receive 
With more advantage. Fain would I suggest 
One act of wholesome prudence to you both ; 
An angered friend, when with his friend he meets, 
Should at such interview attend to nought 
But those pacific schemes on which he came, 
Their ancient broils forgetting. 'Tis incumbent 
On you, O Polynices, to speak first. 
Because, complaining of great wrongs, you lead 
An Argive army hither. May some god 
Judge 'twixt my sons, and reconcile their strife ! 

Pol. Plain are the words of truth, and justice needs 
No subtlety t' interpret, for it bears 
Enough to recommend it : but injustice, 
Devoid of all internal worth, requires 
Each specious art. My father's house, my interests. 
His also, I consulted : and the curse 
Which CEdipus had erst pronounced against us, 


Anxious to shun, from these domains retired 

A voluntary exile, and to him 

Surrendered up the sceptre for one year. 

That in my turn I might be king, nor come, 

With enmity and slaughter in my train, 

Those mischiefs which from discord must ensue 

To act or suffer. He, who to these terms 

Assented, and for sanctions of his oath 

Invoked the gods, hath not accomplished aught 

Of his engagements, but still keeps the throne, 

And o'er my portion of our father's realm 

Without a colleague reigns. I, on receiving 

My rights, e'en now am ready from this land 

To send the troops, and in my palace rule 

For an appointed time, then yield again 

The empire to my brother, nor lay waste 

My country, nor the scaling-ladder plant 

Against yon turrets : yet will I attempt 

To do all this, if justice be denied me. 

I call the gods to witness these assertions : 

That though each solemn contract on my part 

Hath been performed, I from my native land 

By lawless force am driven. I have collected 

No specious words, O mother, to adorn 

Truths which with equal force must strike the wise 

And the illiterate, if I judge aright. 

Chor. To me, although I in a Grecian realm 
Have not been nurtured, thou appear'st to speak 
With much discretion. 

Ete. ■ If, in their ideas 

Of excellence and wisdom, all concurred. 
No strife had e'er perplexed the human race. 
But now, among the tribes of men, are fit. 
And right, and fair equality mere names, 
In real life no longer to be found. 
To you, O mother, I without concealment 
Will speak my sentiments : I would ascend 
The starry paths whence bursts the orient sun, 
And plunge beneath the central earth, to win 


Empire, the greatest of th' immortal powers. 

I therefore will not yield up such a good 

To any other, but for my own use 

Retain it, O my mother : for of manhood 

Devoid is he who tamely bears the loss 

Of what he prizes most, and in its stead 

Accepts some mean exchange. Yet more, it shames me 

That he, who proudly comes with arms to lay 

Our country waste, his wishes should obtain. 

For this would be to Thebes a foul reproach. 

If, trembling at Mycene's spear, I gave 

To him my sceptre. Thus arrayed in mail 

He ought not to negotiate terms of peace. 

For all that by the sword our haughty foes 

Hope to exact might gentle words procure. 

If such his pleasure, he on other terms 

Shall be permitted in this land to dwell ; 

But never can I willingly forego 

That one great object, nor, while sovereign power 

Is yet within my reach, will I e'er stoop 

To be his vassal : rather come, ye flames, 

Ye falchions ; let the warrior steed be harnessed, 

With brazen chariots cover all the field, 

I never will surrender up my throne. 

Since, if we must o'erleap the narrow bounds 

Of justice, for an empire, to transgress 

Were glorious ; we in every point beside 

Are bound to act as virtue's rules enjoin. 

Chor. No ornaments of speech to evil deeds 
Are due, for justice hates such borrowed charms. 

Joe. Believe me, O Eteocles my son, 
Old age is not by wretchedness alone 
Attended : more discreetly than rash youth 
Experience speaks. Why dost thou woo ambition. 
That most malignant goddess ? O forbear ! 
For she's a foe to justice, and hath entered 
Full many a mansion, many a prosperous city, 
Nor left them till in ruin she involves 
All those who harbour her : yet this is she 


On whom thou doat'st, 'Tvvere better, O my son, 

To cultivate equaUty, who joins 

Friends, cities, lieroes in one steadfast league ; 

For by the laws of nature, through the world 

Equality was 'stablished : but the wealthy 

Finds in the poorer man a constant foe ; 

Hence bitter enmity derives its source. 

Equality, among the human race, 

Measures, and weights, and numbers hath ordained : 

Both the dark orb of night and radiant sun 

Their annual circuits equally perform ; 

Each, free from envy, to the other yields 

Alternately ; thus day and night afford 

Their services to man. Yet wilt not thou 

Be satisfied to keep an equal portion 

Of these domains, and to thy brother give 

His due. Where then is justice ? Such respect 

As sober reason disapproves, why pay's! thou 

To empire, to oppression crowned with triumph ? 

To be a public spectacle thou deem'st 

Were honourable. 'Tis but empty pride. 

When thou hast much already, why submit 

To toils unnumbered t What's superfluous wealth 

But a mere name t Sufficient to the wise 

Is competence : for man possesses nought 

Which he can call his own. Though for a time 

What bounty the indulgent gods bestow 

We manage, they resume it at their will : 

Unstable riches vanish in a day. 

Should I to thee th' alternative propose 

Either to reign, or save thy native land, 

Couldst thou reply that thou hadst rather reign ? 

But if he conquer, and the Argive spears 

O'erpower the squadrons who from Cadmus spring, 

Thou wilt behold Thebes taken, wilt behold 

Our captive virgins ravished by the foe : 

That empire which thou seek'st will prove the bane 

Of thy loved country ; yet thou still persist'st 

In mischievous ambition's wild career. 


Thus far to thee. And now to you I speak, 
O Polynices ; favours most unwise 
Are those Adrastus hath on you bestowed, 
And with misjudging fury are you come 
To spread dire havoc o'er your native land. 
If you (which may the righteous gods avert !) 
This city take, how will you rear the trophies 
Of such a battle ? How, when you have laid 
Your country waste, th' initiatory rites 
Perform, and slay the victims ? On the banks 
Of Inachus displayed, with what inscription 
Adorn the spoils — " From blazing Thebes these shields 
Hath Polynices won, and to the gods 
Devoted " ? Never, O my son, through Greece 
May you obtain such glory. But if you 
Are vanquished and Eteocles prevail, 
To Argos, leaving the ensanguined field 
Strewn with unnumbered corses of the slain. 
How can you flee for succour ? 'Twill be said 
By some malignant tongue : " A curst alliance 
Is this which, O Adrastus, thou hast formed : 
». We to the nuptials of one virgin owe 
Our ruin." You are hastening, O my son, 
Into a twofold mischief : losing all 
That you attempt, and causing your brave friends 
To perish. O my sons, this wild excess 
Of rage, with joint concurrence, lay aside. 
By equal folly when two chiefs inspired 
To battle rush, dire mischief must ensue. 

Chor. Avert these woes, and reconcile the sons 
Of Oidipus, ye gods. 

Ete. No strife of words 

Is ours, O mother ; we but waste the time, 
And all your care avails not. For no peace 
Can we conclude on any other terms 
Than those already named — that I, still wielding 
The sceptre, shall be monarch of this land : 
Then leave me to myself, and cease to urge 
These tedious admonitions. As for thee. 


O Polynices, from these walls depart, 
Or thou shall die. 

Pol. By whom 1 Who can be found 

Invulnerable enough, with reeking sword 
To strike me dead, yet 'scape the self-same fate ? 

Ete. Beside thee, and not distant far he stands. 
Seest thou this arm ? 

Pol. I see it : but wealth makes 

Its owners timid, and too fond of life. 

Ete. Art thou come hither with a numerous host 
'Gainst him thou count'st a dastard in the field ? 

Pol. a cautious general's better than a bold. 

Ete. Thou on that compact, which preserves th\' life, 
Too haughtily presum'st. 

Pol. Again I claim 

The sceptre and my portion of this realm. 

Ete, Ill-founded is thy claim, for I will dwell 
In my own house. 

Pol. Retaining to yourself 

More than your share ? 

Ete. The words which I pronounce 

Are these : Depart thou from the Theban land. 

Pol. Ye altars of my loved paternal gods — 

Ete. Which thou art come to plunder — 

Pol. Hear my voice. 

Ete. What deity will hear thee, 'gainst thy country 
While thus thou wagest war .-' 

Pol. And ye abodes 

Of those two gods on milk-white coursers borne. 

Ete. Who hate thee. 

Pol. From the mansions of my sire 

Am I expelled. 

Ete. Because thou hither cam'st 

Those mansions to destroy. 

Pol. Thence was I driven 

With foul injustice. O ye powers divine I 

Ete. Go to Mycene ; there, and not at Thebes, 
Invoke the gods. 

Pol. You trample on the laws. 


Ete. Yet am not I, like thee, my country's foe. 

Pol. Reft of my portion, while you drive me forth 
An exile. 

Ete. Thee moreover will I slay. 

Pol. Hear'st thou what wrongs, my father, I endure ? 

Ete. Thy actions too have reached his ears. 

Pol. And you, 

My mother. 

Ete. Thou thy mother canst not name 

Without a profanation, 

Pol. O thou city ! 

Ete. To Argos haste, and there invoke the pool 
Of Lerna. 

Pol. I depart : forbear to grieve 
For me, O mother, but accept my praise. 

Ete. From these domains avaunt ! 

Pol. Before I go, 

Permit me to behold our sire. 

Ete. Thou shall not 

Obtain this boon. 

Pol. My virgin sisters then. 

Ete. Them, too, thou ne'er shalt see. 

Pol. Alas! dear sisters! 

Ete. Why nam'st thou those to whom thou art most 
hateful ? 

Pol. Joy to my mother ! 

Joc. Have I any cause 

For joy, my son ? 

Pol. No longer am I yours. 

Joc. Full many and most grievous are my woes. 

Pol. Because he wrongs me. 

Ete. Equal are the wrongs 

I suffer. 

Pol. Where will you your station take 
Before yon turrets .'' 

Ete. For what purpose ask 

This question i 

Pol. I in battle am resolved 

To meet and slay you. 


Ete. The same wish now fires 

My inmost soul. 

Joe. Alas I my sons, what mean ye ? 

Ete. The fcCt itself must show. 

Joe. Will ye not shun 

The curses of your sire 1 

Ete. Perdition seize 

On our whole house ! Soon shall my sword, embrued 

With gore, no longer in its scabbard rest. 


Pol Thou soil which nurtured me, and every god, 
Bear witness, that with insults and with wrongs 
O'erwhelmed I from my country, like a slave, 
Not like the son of Oi^dipus, am driven. 
Whate'er thou suffer, O thou city, blame. 
Not me, but him : for I was loth t' invade 
This land, and with reluctance now depart. 
Thou too, O Phcebus, mighty king, who guard'st 
These streets, ye palaces, my youthful comrades. 
Farewell I and, O ye statues of the gods, 
Drenched with the blood of victims 1 — for I know not 
Whether I ever shall accost you more. 
But hope yet sleeps not, and in her I place 
My trust, that with Heaven's aid I shall enjoy 
The Theban realm, when I have slain this boaster. 


Ete. Leave these domains : a forethought by the gods 
Inspired, my father prompted, when on thee 
The name of Polynices, to denote 
Abundance of contention, he bestowed. 

{Exit Eteocles. 

, Chorus. 


Erst to this land the Tyrian Cadmus came. 

When at his feet a heifer lay. 
Who in the meads unyoked was wont to stray, 
Fulfilling Heaven's response, well known to fame. 

And marked the spot where he should dwell : 


The oracle announced this fruitful ground 
For his abode, where, from her Hmpid well, 
Fair Dirce spreads a cooling stream around, 
And on her banks are vernal blossoms found : 

Compressed by amorous Jove 
Here Semele tlie ruddy Bromius bore, 
Whom ivy with luxuriant tendrils strove 
In infancy to mantle o'er 
And round his happy brows to spread. 
Hence, in bacchanalian dance, 
With light and wanton tread 
The Theban nymphs advance, 
And matrons all their cares resign, 
Gay votaries to the god of wine. 


Mars at the fount its ruthless guardian placed. 

On scaly folds a dragon rode, 
Wild glared his eyes, in vain the waters flowed, 
Nor dared the thirsting passenger to taste ; 

Advancing with undaunted tread 
To draw libations for the powers divine, 
A ponderous stone full on the monster's head 
Cadmus discharged, then seized and pierced his chine 
With frequent wounds ; so Pallas did enjoin: 

This done, the teeth he sowed, 
And instantly, dire spectacle, a train. 
All clad in mail, on earth's torn surface glowed ; 
Soon was each hardy warrior slain, 
And to the soil which gave him birth 
Joined once more : a crimson flood 
Moistened the lap of earth ; 
By parching winds their blood 
Was visited, and still remain 
Its marks on the discoloured plain. 


To thee, O Epaphus, the child of Jove, 
Sprung from our grandame lo's love, 
I cried in a barbaric strain ; 


O visit, visit this once favoured plain 

Wliich thy descendants call their own. 
Two goddesses by countless votaries known, - 
Proserpina, dread queen, who from our birth 
Conducts us to the tomb, with Ceres the benign, 
E'en she whose foodful shrine 
Is thronged by every denizen of earth, 

From earliest days this realm possessed ; 
With lambent glories on their front displayed, 
O send them to its aid ; 
Nought can withstand a god's request. 

Eteocles, Chorus. 
Ete. [(0 one of his Attendants.] Go thou, and hither 
bring Menaeceus' son, 
Creon, the noble brother of Jocasta, 
My mother ; tell him, on my own affairs. 
And on the public interests of the state, 
With him I would consult, ere host opposed 
To host in battle meet and launch the spear. 
But lo ! he is at hand to spare thy feet 
The toil of this their errand : I behold him 
Approach the palace. 

Creon, Eteocles, Chorus. 

Cre. I to every gate 

And every sentinel, my royal lord, 
Have gone in quest of you. 

Ete. Thee, too, I longed, 

O Creon, to behold : for I have found 
Treaties for peace all fruitless since I spoke 
With Polynices. 

Cre. He, I hear, looks down 

With scorn on Thebes, trusting in his ally 
Adrastus, and that numerous Argive host. 
But we to the decision of the gods 
Must now refer. Most urgent are th' affairs 
Of which 1 come to tell. 

Ete. What means my friend ? 

Thy words I comprehend not. 


Cre. From the camp 

Of Argos a deserter came. 

Ete. To bring 

Some recent tidings of what passes there ? 

Cre. Their host, he says, arrayed in ghttering mail, 
Will instantly besiege the Theban towers. 

Ete. The valiant race of Cadmus from these gates 
Must sally forth, to guard their native land. 

Cre. What mean you ? Sees not your impetuous youth 
Our strength in a false light ? 

Ete. Without the trenches, 

To show that we are ready for the combat. 

Cre. Few are the Theban squadrons, but the number 
Of theirs is great. 
Ete. In words I know them brave. 

Cre. The fame of Argos through all Greece resounds. 
Ete. Be of good cheer ; I with their corses soon 
These fields will cover. 

Cre. With your wishes mine 

Concur : but I foresee that such emprise 
Abounds with heaviest dangers. 

Ete. Be assured 

I will not coop my host within the walls. 
Cre. On prudent counsels our success depends. 
Ete, Wouldst thou persuade me therefore to attempt 
Some other method .'' 

Cre. Ere you risk cur fate 

On one decisive battle, have recourse 
To all expedients. 

Ete. What if I rush forth 

From ambush, and encounter them by night ? 

Cre. Could you return, if worsted, and take shelter 
Within these walls ? 

Ete. Night to both hosts affords 

The same impediments ; but they fare best 
Who give th' assault. 

Cre. 'Tis terrible to rush 

On danger 'midst the thickest clouds of darkness. 

Ete. Shall I then launch the javelin, while they sit 
Around the genial board ? 


Cre, This might alarm them ; 

Our business is to conquer. 

Ete. Dirce's channel, 

Which they must cross iu their retreat, is deep. 

Cre. All schemes you can propose are less expedient 
Than if you with a prudent caution act. 

Ete. But what if we with cavalry attack 
The Argive camp } 

Cre. On every side the host 

With chariots is secured. 

Ete. What then remains 

For me to do ? Must I surrender up 
This city to our foes t 

Cre. Not thus ; exert 

Your wisdom, and deliberate. 

Ete. What precaution, 

Think'st thou, were most discreet ? 

Cre. I am informed 

They have seven champions. 

Ete. Wiiat's the task assigned 

For them t' effect ? Their strength can be but small. 

Cre. To head as many bands, and storm each gate. 

Ete. How then shall we proceed ? For I disdain 
To sit inactive. 

Cre. On your part select 

Seven warriors who the portals may defend. 

Ete. O'er squadrons to preside, or take their stand 
As single combatants ? 

Cre. To lead seven squadrons, 

Choosing the bravest. 

Ete. Well I understand 

Thy purpose ; to prevent the foe from scaling 
The ramparts. 

Cre. Comrades of experience add ; 

For one man sees not all. 

Ete. Shall I to valour 

Or wisdom give the preference 

Cre. Join them both ; 

For one without the other is a thing 
Of no account. 


Ete. It shall be done. I'll march 

Into the city, place at every gate 
A chief, as thou hast counselled, and the troops 
Distribute so that we on equal terms 
May with the foe engage. It would be tedious 
The name of every warrior to recount, 
Just at this moment, when beneath our walls 
The enemy is posted. But with speed 
I go, that I in action may not prove 
A loiterer. May it be my lot to meet 
My brother hand to hand, that with this spear 
I 'midst the lines of battle may transfix 
And kill that spoiler, who is come to lay 
My country waste. I to thy care entrust 
The nuptials of Antigone, my sister, 
And thy son Haemon, if it be my fate 
To perish in the combat, and enforce 
Our former contract with my dying breath. 
Thou art Jocasta's brother : of what use 
Are many words .'* My mother in such rank 
Maintain as suits thy honour and the love 
Thou bear'st me. As for my unhappy sire, 
To his own folly are his sufferings due, 
Bereft of eyesight ; him I cannot praise. 
For by his curses would he slay us both. 
One thing have we omitted — -of the seer 
Tiresias to inquire if he have aught 
Of Heaven's obscure responses to disclose. 
Thy son, Menaeceus from his grandsire named, 
To fetch the prophet hither will I send, 
O Creon, for he gladly will converse 
With thee : but I so scornfully have treated, 
E'en in his i)resence, the whole soothsayer's art, 
That he abhors me. But I, on the city 
And thee, O Creon, this injunction lay : 
If I prove stronger, suffer not the corse 
Of Polynices in this Theban realm 
To be interred : let death be the reward 
Of him who scatters dust o'er his remains, 


Although he be the dearest of my friends. 

Thus far to thee — but to my followers this 

I add : bring forth my shield, my helm, my greaves, 

And radiant mail, that by victorious justice 

Accompanied, I instantly may rush 

Amidst the fray which waits me. But to prudence, 

Who best of all th' immortal powers protects 

The interests of her votaries, let us pray 

That she this city would from ruin save. 

\^Exit Eteocles. 


How long, stern Mars, shall scenes of death inspire 
Aversion to the feasts gay Bacclius holds ? 
Why join'st thou not the beauteous virgin choir 
Whose heaving bosoms love's first warmth unfolds, 
Thy hair's loose ringlets waving o'er thy face, 
Pleased on some amorous theme the lute t' employ, 
Dear to the Graces, dear to social joy ? 
But thou, a foe to the devoted race 
Of Theb^, lead'st these Argives to their fields. 
Forming dire preludes for a tragic dance ; 
Nor with the god whose hand the thyrsus wields. 
In dappled skins of hinds dost thou advance ; 
Exulting in the thong and harnessed steeds, 
Thou driv'st thy chariot o'er Ismenos* meads, 
And 'gainst th' invaders, in each Theban breast 
Infusing equal rancour, promp'st that band, 
Seed of the dragon's teeth, to take their stand ; 
These rush to guard the walls, and those t' invest. 
Inhuman goddess, Discord, to the kings 
Of Labdacus' house a train of misery brings. 

With sacred foliage ever clad, ye groves 
Of famed Cithasron, whose steep cliffs abound 
With sylvan game, thou mount where Dian loves 
To urge through drifted snows the rapid hound. 


Thou ought'st not to have nourished in thy shade 
Jocasta's son ; then better had he died 
When, cast forth from the palace, on thy side 
In ghttering vest the royal child was laid : 
Nor ought the Sphynx, the curse of these domains, 
That subtle virgin, to have winged her way 
From thy proud heights with inauspicious strains ; 
Armed with four talons, clenched to rend her prey, 
These wails approaching, high into the air 
The progeny of Cadmus did she bear, 
By Pluto sent from hell, 'gainst Thebes she came. 
New v/oes the sons of Qidipus await, 
Again this city feels the scourge of fate, 
For virtue springs not from the couch of shame ; 
Fruits of th' incestuous womb, their sire's disgrnce, 
Are these devoted youths, accurst and spurious race. 


Erst thy teeming soil gave birth 
(As in barbaric accents was made known 

To us by ihe loud voice of fame), 
O Thebes, to that illustrious brood of earth, 
Sprung from the teeth of that slain dragon sown, 

Thy realm their prowess did adorn. 
In honour of Harmonia's bridal morn. 

To this favoured region came 
All the celestial choir, 
What time the turrets, which this grateful land 
Impregnable by human force esteems. 
Reared by the harp, and not the artist's hand, 

Obedient to Amphion's lyre, 

Arose amidst the fruitful meads 
Where gentle Dirce leads 
Her current, and Ismenos' waters yield 

Abundant verdure to the field 

Encompassed by their streams. 
She, whom a heifer's horned front disguised, 
lo, was mother to the Theban kings : 
Successively, each bliss by mortals prized. 


Hath to Ihis city given renown, 
And hither still fair victory brings 
The noblest meed of war, the laurel's deathless crown. 


TiR. \Jo his daughter Manto.] Lead on ; for thou, 
my daughter, to the feet 
Of thy blind father, prov'st an eye as sure 
As to the mariners the polar star. 
Place me where I on level ground may tread, 
And go before, lest we both fall : thy sire 
Is feeble. In thy virgin hand preserve 
Those oracles which I in former days 
Received, when from the feathered race I drew 
My auguries, and in the sacred chair 
Of prophecy was seated. Say, thou youth 
Menaeceus, son of Creon, through the city 
How far must I proceed before I reach 
Thy father, for my knees can scarce support me. 
And though full oft I raise these aching feet, 
I seem to gain no ground. 

Cre. Be of good cheer, 

Tiresias, for with well-directed step 
Already have you reached your friend. My son, 
Support him : for the chariot, and the foot 
Of an infirm old man, is wont to need 
The kind assistance of some guiding hand. 

TiR. No matter. I am here. Why with such haste, 

Creon, call'st thou me ? 

Cre. I have not yet 

Forgotten ; but till your exhausted strength 
Can be recovered after the fatigue 
Of your long march, take breath. 

TiR. With wearied step 

1 yesterday came hither from the realm 
Of Athens, for there also was a war 
Against Eumolpus, o'er whose troops I caused 
The dauntless race of Cecrops to prevail : 
Hence I possess the golden crown thou seest, 


As a first fruit selected from the spoils 
Of foes discomfited. 

Cre. That crown I deem 

An omen of success. You know the storm 
Which threatens us from yonder Argive host 
And what a mighty conflict now impends 
O'er the inhabitants of Thebes. Our king 
Eleocles, in brazen arms arrayed, 
To face Mycene's squadrons is gone forth, 
But hath with me a strict injunction left, 
To learn of you what can with most effect 
By us be done the city to preserve. 

TiR. This mouth, I on Etcocles' account 
Still closing, would for ever have suppressed 
Heaven's dread response, but will to thee unfold it 
Since 'tis thy wish to hear. This land, O Creon, 
Hath been diseased since Laius 'gainst the will 
Of Heaven became a father, and begot 
The wretched QLdipus, his mother's husband, 
Whose eyes, torn out by his own hand, the gods 
Wisely ordained should to all Greece afford 
A dread example ; which, in striving long 
To cover from the knowledge of the world, 
His sons, as if they thought to have escaped 
Heaven's eye, with a presumptuous folly sinned : 
For to their father yielding no respect, 
Nor loosing him from prison, they embittered 
The anguish of a miserable man : 
At once afflicted by disease and shnme. 
Those horrid execrations he poured forth 
Against them both : " What have I left undone, 
Or what unsaid, though all my zeal but served 
To make me hated by th' unnatural sons 
Of (Edipus ? " But by each other's hand, 
Them soon shall death o'ertake, O Creon ; heaps 
On heaps of carnage cover all the plain, 
And Argive weapons mingling with the shafts 
Of Cadmus' race, through the whole Theban land 
Cause bitter plaints. Thou too, O wretched city, 


Shalt be destroyed, unless my counsels meet 

With one who will obey them. What were most 

To be desired were this : that none who spring 

From CEdipus should here reside, or hold 

The sceptre of this land, for they, impelled 

By the malignant demons, will o'erthrow 

The city. But, since evil thus prevails 

O'er good, one other method yet remains 

To save us. But unsafe were it for me 

Such truths to utter, and, on bitter terms, 

Must they whom Fate selects their country heal. 

I go : farewell ! I, as a private man, 

Shall suffer, if necessity ordain, 

With multitudes, the evils which impend : 

For how can I escape the general doom ? 

Cre. Here tarry, O my venerable friend. 

TiR. Detain me not. 

Cre. Stay ; wherefore would you fly ? 

TiR. It is thy fortune which from thee departs, 
And not Tiresias. 

Cre. By what means, inform me, 

Can Thebes with its inhabitants be saved ? 

TiR. Though such thy wish at present, thou ere long 
Wilt change thy purpose. 

Cre. How can I be loth 

To save my country ? 

TiR. Art thou anxious then 

To hear the truth ? 

Cre. What ought I to pursue 

With greater zeal ? 

Tir. Thou instantly shall hear 

The oracles Heaven sends me to unfold : 
But first assure me where Menaeceus is, 
Who led me hither. 

Cre. At your side he stands. 

Tir. Far hence let him retire, while I disclose 
To thee the awful mandate of the gods. 

Cre. My son with th' utmost strictness will observe 
The silence you enjoin. 

192 EUklPIDES. 

TiR. Is it thy will 

That in his presence I to thee should speak ? 

Cue. Of aught that could preserve his native land 
He with delight would hear. 

TiR. Then, to the means 

Which through my oracles are pointed out, 
Yield due attention ; for by acting thus 
Ye shall preserve this city, where the race 
Of Cadmus dwell ; thou, in thy country's cause, 
Thy son Menaeceus art ordained to slay : 
Since thou on me importunately cali'st 
The dread behest of fortune to unfold, 

Cre. What say you ? How unwelcome are these words, 

aged man ! 

TiR. I only speak of things 

Just as they are ; and add, thou must perform 
Th' iniunction. 

Cre. How much evil have you uttered 

In one short moment ! 

Tir. Though to thee unwelcome, 

Yet to thy country fame and health. 

Cre. Your words 

1 hear not, nor your purpose comprehend : 
The city I abandon to its fate. 

Tir. His purpose he retracts, and is no longer 
The man he was. 

Cre. Depart in peace ; I need not 

Your oracles. 

Tir. Hath truth then lost its merit, 

Because thou art unhappy ? 

Cre. By those knees, 

You I implore, and by those hoary locks. 

Tir. Why sue to me } The ills 'gainst which thou pray*sl 
Are not to be avoided. 

Cre. Peace ! Divulge not 

In Thebes these tidings. 

TiR. Dost thou bid me act 

Unjustly ? Them I never will suppress. 

Cre. What is your purpose, to destroy my son ? 


TiR. Let others see to that : I only speak 
As Heaven ordains. 

Cre. But whence was such a curse 

On me and on my progeny derived? 

TiR. Well hast thou asked this question, and a field 
For our debate laid open. In yon den, 
Where erst the guard of Dirce's fountain lay. 
That earth-born dragon, must the youth pour forth 
His blood for a libation to the ground. 
And expiate by his death the ancient hate 
To Cadmus borne by Mars, who thus avenges 
The progeny of earth, the dragon, slain : 
This done, the god of battles will become 
Your champion ; and when earth shall, in the stead 
Of her lost fruit the dragon, have received 
The fruit of that heroic race who sprung 
From its own teeth, and human blood for blood, 
Propitious shall ye find the teeming soil. 
Which erst, instead of wheat, produced a crop 
Of radiant helms. Die then some victim must 
Who from the jaws of that slain dragon sprung : 
But thou alone in Thebes remain'st who thence 
Deriv'st thy birth unmixed, both by thy sire 
And by the female line ; thence, too, descend 
Thy generous sons : but Hsemon must not bleed, 
Because he is espoused, nor in a state 
Of pure celibacy doth still remain, 
For he possesses an affianced bride, 
Although he be a stranger to her bed. 
But, for the city, if this tender youth 
Shall as a chosen victim be devoted, 
He by his death will save his native land, 
Will cause Adrastus and his Argive host 
With anguish to return, before their eyes 
Placing grim death, and add renown to Thebes. 
From these two fortunes make thy choice of one, 
Whether thy son or city thou wilt save. 
Thou hast heard all I had to say in answer 
To thy inquiries. Daughter, lead me home. 



Unwise is he who practises the art 

Of divination ; for if he announce 

Evils to come, he is abhorred by those 

Who hear him ; but, through pity, if he utter 

Untruths that please, he sins against the gods. 

Phoebus alone, who cannot fear the hate 

Of man, his own responses should pronounce. 

{Exit TiRESIAS. 

Chor. What means this silence? Wherefore hast thou 
Thy mouth, O Creon ? But I too am smitten 
With equal terror, 

Cre. How can a reply 

Be made to such proposal ? What I mean 
To say is evident. To such a pitch 
Of woe may I ne'er come as to resign 
My son to bleed for Thebes ! In all mankind 
The love they bear their children is as strong 
As that of life ; nor is there any father 
Who for a victim will yield up his son. 
May no man praise me on such terms as slaying 
Those I begot ! I stand prepared to die. 
For I am ripe in years, and would for Thebes 
Make due atonement with my streaming gore. 
But, O my son, ere the whole city know. 
Regardless of that frantic prophet's voice, 
Fly fronn this land, fly with your utmost speed ; 
He will proclaim the oracle to those 
Who wield the sceptre, or lead forth our troops 
To battle, visiting each chieftain stationed 
At the seven gates : if haply we with him 
Can be beforehand, you may yet be saved ; 
But if you loiter, we are both undone. , 

And you must die. 

Men. But whither, to what city, 

What hospitable stranger speed my flight ? 

Cre. As far as possible from these domains. 

Men. You ought to name a place for my retreat, 
And I must execute what you command. 

The phcenician damsels. 195 

Cre. Passing through Delphi — 

Men. Wliither, O my sire, 

Must I proceed ? 

Cre. To the ^tolian land. 

Men. But whither thence shall I direct my course .' 

Cre. Next to Thesprotia. 

Men. Where Dodona rears 

Her hallowed grove. 

Cre. Full well you comprehend 

My meaning. 

Men. There what safeguard shall I find .' 

Cre. Its tutelary god your steps will guide. 

Men. But how shall I with treasures be supplied ? 

Cre. To you will I convey abundant gold. 

Men. Discreetly have you spoken, O my sire. 

Cre. Now leave me. 

Men. To your sister I would go^- 

I mean Jocasta, who first nurtured me 
In infancy, when of my mother reft 
An orphan I became ; one fond adieu 
To her I fain would bid, and of my life 
Then take due care. 

Cre. But go, or you will frustrate 

All I can do to save you. 

{Exit CreON. 

Men. With what art, 

virgins, have I soothed my father's fears, 
By specious words (my promise to accomplish) 
Deceiving him who sends me hence, to rob 
The city of those fortunes which await her, 
And brand me with a coward's hateful name. 
In an old man such weakness claims excuse ; 
But I should sin beyond all hopes of pardon 

If I betrayed the land which gave me birth. 

1 go, to save this city; be assured. 

Such are the terms on which I yield up life, 
Content to perish in my country's cause. 
If they whom Heaven's oracular response 
Leaves at full liberty, by no decrees 

G 3 


Of the resistless destinies impelled, 

Maintain their ground in battle, nothing loth 

To bleed, the champions of their native land. 

Before yon turrents, base were it in me. 

If proving faithless to my sire, my brother, 

And country, like a dastard, I should speed 

My flight from these domains ; where'er I live, 

Shame would o'ertake me. From the starry pole 

May Jove forefend, and Mars, in human gore 

Exulting, who the sceptre of this realm 

Erst gave to kings, earth's progeny, the seed 

Of that slain dragon's teeth. But I will go. 

Ascend the topmost pinnacles, and piercing 

My breast, where they o'erhang the dragon's cave. 

The very spot the seer described, redeem 

My country from its foes. I have pronounced 

Th' irrevocable word. But, by my death, 

On Thebes no sordid present to bestow, 

I haste, and from these mischiefs will set free 

The groaning land. Would every man exert 

To their full stretch his talents to promote 

The public interest, every state, exposed 

To fewer ills, hereafter might be blest. 




O winged fiend, who from the earth 
And an infernal viper drew'st thy birth, 

Thou cam'st, thou cam'st, to bear away, 
Amidst incessant groans, thy prey. 

And harass Cadmus' race, 
Thy frantic pinions did resound, 
Thy fangs impressed the gha=tly wound, 
Thou ruthless monster with a virgin's face : 
What youths from Dirce's fount were borne aloof, 
While thou didst utter thy discordant song, 
The furies haunted every roof, 


And o'er these walls sat slaughter brooding long. 

Sure from some god whose breast no mercy knew 

Their source impure these hoiTors drew. 

From house to house the cries 

Of matrons did resound, 

And wailing maidens rent the skies 

With frequent shrieks loud as the thundei^'s burst, 

Oft as the Sphinx accurst, 
Some youth, whom in the Theban streets she found, 
Bore high in air ; all gazed in wild affright. 
Till she vanished from their sight. 

At length the Pythian god's command 
Brought Qidipus to this ill-fated land ; 

Each heart did then with transport glow. 

Though now his name renew their woe : 
By angry Heaven beguiled, 

When he th' enigma had explained, 

His mother for a bride he gained ; 
With incest hence the city was defiled. 
Fresh murders soon his curses will inspire. 
Urging his sons to an unnatural strife. 

We that heroic youth admire 
Who in his country's cause resigns his life, 
H.e, though his father Creon wail his fate. 

With triumph in the fell debate. 

Will crown these sevenfold towers. 
Of Heaven I ask no more 

Than that such children may be ours : 
Thy aid, O Pallas, in th' adventurous deed 

Caused Cadmus to succeed, 
And slay the dragon, whose envenomed gore 
Was sprinkled on these rocks ; by Heaven's command 

Hence some pest still haunts the land. 

Messenger, Chorus. 
Mes. Who at the portals of the regal dome 
Is stationed 1 Open, bring Jocasta forth 


From her apartment. Ho ! advance at length, 
And listen to my voice, illustrious wife 
Of Oidipus. No longer grieve, nor shed 
The piteous tear. 

JocASTA, Messenger, Chorus. 

Joe. Come you, my friend, to bring 

Sad tidings of Eteocles the slain. 
Beside whose shield you ever stood to guard 
The warrior from the javelins of the foe ? 
With what important message are you charged ? 
Is my son dead, or lives he? Tell me all. 

Mes. He lives, that fear be banished. 

Joe. Are our walls 

By their seven towers secured .'' 

Mes. They still remain 

Unshaken, and the city is not sacked. 

Joe. Have they withstood the perilous assault 
From th' Argive combatants 1 

Mes. The fate of battle 

Is just decided: the intrepid race 
Of Cadmus o'er Mycene's host prevailed. 

Joe. Yet one thing more ; I by th' immortal powers 
Conjure you, tell me whether you know aught 
Of Polynices, for I wish to learn 
If he yet live. 

Mes. At present both thy sons 

Are living. 

Joe, Bliss attend you : but inform me 

How ye the troops of Argos from the gates, 
Beleaguered in the turrets, could repel ? 
That to my home with speed I may return, 
The blind and aged G^dipus to soothe 
With the glad tidings that this city's saved. 

Mes. Since Creon's son, who for his country diedj 
Mounting the topmost pinnacles, transpierced 
His bosom with the falchion, and became 
The generous saviour of his native land, 
Eteocles distributed seven cohorts 


At the seven gates, and to each band assigned 

Its leader, by their vigilance to check 

The furious onset of the Argive host : 

He stationed a reserve of horse to succour 

The horse, and infantry witli bucklers armed 

Behind the infantry, that where the walls 

Were with the greatest violence assailed 

Fresh strength might be at hand. As on our turrets 

We stood exalted, and o'erlooked the plain, 

The Argive host we saw, with silver shields 

Conspicuous, from Teumessus' mount descend : 

Over their trenches in their rapid march 

Soon vaulting, to ihe city they drew near, 

While paeans, mingled with the trumpet's sound, 

At the same instant through their ranks were heard, 

And on the Theban walls. His squadron, first, 

By their raised targets screened, which cast around 

A horrid shade, to the Neitian gate 

Parthenopasus l^d, the daring son 

Of Atalanta ; on his central shield, 

His mother's trophy, the ^tolian boar. 

Pierced by that huntress with unerring shaft. 

The chief displayed. Amphiareus the seer 

Marched to the gites of Prsetus, on his car 

Conveying victims : no unseemly pride 

In his armorial bearings was expressed. 

But on his modest buckler there appeared 

A vacant field. At the Ogygian portals 

The fierce Hippomedon maintained his stand. 

By this achievement was his orbdd targe 

Distinguished : Argus, with unnumbered eyes, 

A part of which, awakening fresh from sleep, 

Oped with the rising stars, meantime the rest 

He with the setting constellations closed ; 

As more distinctly, when the chief was slain, 

Might be discerned. But Tydeus next his post 

Before the Homolaean gate maintained : 

With a huge lion's bristly hide his shield 

Was covered, in his better hand a torch 


He, like Prometheus of the Titans' race, 

Brandished to fire the city. To the gate 

From Dirce's fountain named his marshalled troops 

Thy son the furious Polynices led ; 

The rapid mares of Potnia (the device 

Portrayed upon his target) seemed to leap 

With panic terrors smitten, and, grown frantic, 

All crowded in a circle to the rim. 

Equal in courage to the God of War, 

Next with his cohort to Electra's gate 

Rushed Capaneus : the ensign wrought in steel 

Upon his buckler was an earth-born giant. 

Whose shoulders carried a whole city torn 

With levers from its basis, to denote 

The menaced fate of Thebes. Adrastus' self 

At the seventh gate appeared ; on his left arm 

The Hydra with a hundred snakes begirt, 

Which filled the convex surface of his shield. 

That badge of Argive pride, the warrior bore. 

From Thebes, surrounded by its lofty walls. 

The serpents opening their voracious jaws 

Conveyed the sons of Cadmus. Each device 

I could observe securely, as I passed 

Betwixt the leaders of the adverse hosts, 

Distinguished by the pledge of truce. At first 

We at a distance fought with bows and shafts, 

And slings and stones ; but when our troops obtained 

An easy conquest in this missile war, 

Tydeus, and Polynices, thy brave son, 

Both cried at the same instant, " O ye race 

Of Danaus, ere our squadrons are dispersed 

By weapons from yon lofty turrets hurled, 

Why on the portals scruple ye to make 

One resolute assault with all our strength. 

The light-armed troops, our horse, and brazen cars ? " 

Soon as they heard their leader's cheering voice, 

None loitered, but full many a valiant Argive 

Was through the brain transpierced, while from the walls, 

Like skilful divers, our expiring friends 


Oft threw themselves ; the thirsty ground with streams 

Of gore they drenched. Fierce Atalanta's son, 

Not Argos, but Arcadia gave him birth, 

Rushed like a whirlwind to the gates, and called 

For flaming brands and axes to destroy ; 

But Periclimenus, who from the god 

Of ocean sprung, soon quelled his frantic rage : 

Torn from the battlement, a stone, whose mass 

Had filled a chariot, on his head he threw, 

The stripling's auburn hair and crashing skull 

It severed, and those rosy cheeks defiled 

With gushing blood ; to the maternal arms 

Of her who twangs the unerring bow, the nymph 

Of Msnalon, he never shall return. 

But when thy son Eteocles surveyed 

Our triumphs at this gate, the rest with speed 

He visited; I followed, and beheld 

Tydeus attended by a phalanx armed 

With bucklers hurling their ^tolian spears 

Into the loftiest towers, with such success 

That they constrained our fugitives to quit 

Their station on the ramparts ; but thy son 

Rallied them like a hunter, and collected 

Each warrior to resume his post ; their fears 

Dispelled, we hasted to another gate. 

But in what terms shall I describe the madness 

Of Capaneus ? He with a ladder came, 

And boasted that not e'en the lightning launched 

By Jove's own hand should hinder him from scaling 

The towers to sack the city. Thus he spoke ; 

And 'midst a storm of stones, from step to step 

Ascending, still sufficient shelter found 

Beneath the huge circumference ot his shield ; 

But as he reached the summit of the wall 

Jove smote him with a thunderbolt, earth gave 

A sound so loud that all were seized with terror ; 

As from a sling his scattered limbs were thrown, 

His blasted tresses mounted to the skies. 

On earth his blood was sprinkled, but his hands 


And feet were, like Ixion on the wheel, 

Whirled with incessant motion, till at length 

Down to the ground he fell a smouldering corse. 

Soon as Adrastus saw Jove warred against him, 

He with his Argive host in swift retreat 

Again the trenches crossed : but when our troops 

Marked the auspicious sign vouchsafed by Jove, 

They from the gates rushed forth with brazen cars, 

With cavalry in ponderous arms arrayed, 

And 'midst the Argive squadrons hurled their spears : 

Each ill concurred to overwhelm the foe, 

Death raged amongst them, from their chariots thrown 

They perished, wheels flew off, 'gainst axle crashed 

Axle, and corses were on corses lieaped. 

The Theban turrets we this day have saved 

From ruin, but to the immortal powers, 

And them alone, belongs it to decide 

Whether auspicious fortune on this land 

Shall smile hereafter. 

Chor. In th' embattled field 

'Tis glorious to prevail : but were the gods 
More favourably disposed, I should enjoy 
A greater share of bliss. 

Joe. The gods and fortune 

Have amply done their part : for both my sons 
Are living, and the city, hath escaped : 
Unhappy Creon only seems to reap 
The bitter fruits of my accursed nuptials 
With Qldipus, for he hath lost his son. 
And such event, though fortunat j for Thebes, 
To him is grievous. In your tale proceed. 
Sny on ; what farther have my sons resolved 1 

Mes. The sequel wave ; for all with thee thus far 
Goes prosperously. 

Joe. These words but serve to raise 

Suspicion : nothing must be left untold. 

Mes. What wouldst thou more than that thy sons are safe ? 

Joe. But whether my good fortune will prove lasting 
I wish to know. 


Mes. Release me : for thy son 

Is left without his shield-bearer. 

Joe. Some ill 

In mystic darkness wrapt you strive to hide. 

Mes. I to these welcome tidings cannot add 
Such as would make thee wretched. 

Joe, No way left. 

Unless you through the air could wing your flight, 
Have you to 'scape me. 

Mes. After this glad message 

Why wilt thou not allow me to depart, 
Rather than speak of grievous ills ? Thy sons 
Are both resolved on a most impious deed : 
Apart from either army to engage 
In single combat, to the Argive troops 
And the assembled citizens of Thebes 
Have they addressed such language as ne'er ought 
To reach their ears, Eteocles began : 
Above the field high on a tower he stood, 
Commanding silence first to be proclaimed 
Through all the host, and cried : " O peerless chiefs 
Of the Achaian land, who, to invade 
This city, from the realms of Danaus come, 
And ye who spring from Cadmus, in the cause 
Of Polynices barter not your lives, 
Nor yet on my behalf ; I, from such dangers 
To save you, with my brother will engage 
In single combat, and if him I slay 
Here in this palace shall I reign alone, 
But I to him the city will yield up 
If I am vanquished : from the bloody strife 
Desisting, ye to Argos shall return, 
Nor perish in a foreign land : enough 
Of Thebans too on this ensanguined plain 
Lie breathless corses." With these words his speech 
The dauntless chief concluded. From the ranks, 
Thy offspring, Polynices, then advanced 
And the proposal praised, while, with a shout. 
The Argive and the Theban hosts, who deemed 


Such combat just, their public sanction gave. 

Then was the truce agreed on ; 'twixt both hosts 

The generals met, and by a solemn oath 

Engaged themselves the compact to fulfil. 

In brazen panoply, without delay 

The sons of aged CEdipus were clad : 

His friends, the noblest Theban youths, equipped 

The ruler of this land, the Argive chiefs 

Armed his antagonist ; both stood conspicuous 

In glittering mail, their looks betrayed no change, 

And at each other's breast with frantic rage 

They longed to hurl the spear. Meantime their friends 

Passed by, and with these words iheir courage roused : 

" On thee, O Polynices, it depends 

To rear an image of triumphant Jove, 

And add fresh glories to the Argive state." 

But to Eteocles they cried : " Thou fight'st 

The battles of thy native land, obtain 

A conquest and the sceptre will be thine." 

Exhorting them to combat thus they spoke ; 

Meanwhile the seers the fleecy victims slew, 

Drew forth the reeking entrails, and observed 

Whether the flames by unpropitious damps 

Were checked, or mounted in a spiral blaze. 

The twofold signs of victory or defeat. 

But if thou canst do aught by sage advice 

Or magic incantation, go, dissuade 

Thy sons from this accursed strife; the danger 

Is imminent, and horror must attend 

On such a conflict : with abundant tears 

Wilt thou bewail their fate if thou this day 

Of both thy sons art reft. 

Joe. Come forth, my daughter, 

Antigone, thy fortunes now are such 
As will not suffer thee to lead the dance 
Amid thy virgin train — thou, with thy mother. 
Must hasten to prevent two valiant youths. 
Thy brothers, rushing upon instant death, 
Else will they perish by each other's hand. 


Antigone, Jocasta, Chorus. 

Ant. Before these gates, my mother, with what sounds 
Of recent horror com'st thou to alarm 
Thy friends. 

Joe. Ere now, my daughter, both thy brothers 

Have lost their lives. 

Ant. What sayst thou ? 

Joe. They went forth 

Resolved on single combat. 

Ant. Wretched me ! 

What more hast thou, O mother, to relate ? 

Joe. Nought that can give thee joy, but follow me. 

Ant. Say whither must I go, and leave behind 
My virgin comrades ? 

Joe. To the host. 

Ant. I blush 

To mingle with the crowd. 

Joe. These bashful fears 

Are such as in thy present situation 
Become thee not. 

Ant. How can my help avail? 

Joe. Thou haply mayst appease this impious strife 
Betwixt thy brothers. 

Ant. Mother, by what means ? 

Joe. By falling prostrate at their knees with me. 

Ant. Lead on betwixt the van of either host, 
This crisis will admit of no delay. 

Joe. Haste, O my daughter, haste, for if my sons 
I haply can prevent ere they begin 
Th' accurst encounter, I shall yet behold 
The blessed sun ; but if I find them slain 
With them will I partake one common grave. 

{Exeunt Jocasta and AXTIGONE. 



Ah, what boding horror throws 
Chilling damps into my breast, 
How is this whole frame opprest 
By sympathetic pity for the woes 
Of her who to those valiant youths gave birth : 
But which of her loved children twain 
His sword with kindred gore shall stain 
(Avert it, righteous Jove, and thou, O genial earth !) 
And in the strife a brother slay, 
The stroke descending through his cloven shield ? 
To whom the sad last tribute shall I pay, 
A breathless corse stretcht weltering on the field ? 


Woe to thee, thou Theban ground! 

Those twin lions fired with rage 

Couch their lances to engage. 
And stand prepared to aim the deadly wound. 
In evil hour the thought of single fight 

Entered their souls. While many a tear. 

Shuddering with excess of fear. 
For them I vainly shed, their dirge will I recite, 

Though in a harsh barbaric strain ; 
Their destined portion slaughter is at hand. 
Ere Phoebus sinks into the western main 
Their forfeit lives the furies shall demand. 
But I my warbled lamentations cease, 
For, with a brow by clouds of grief o'ercast, 
Creon, approaching these abodes, I view. 

Creon, Chorus. 
Cre. Ah me ! shall I bewail my private woes 
Or those of Thebes surrounded by such clouds 
As Acheron exhales ! My valiant son 
Died for his country, an illustrious name 


Obtaining, but to me a source of grief. 
That self-devoted victim's mangled corse 
I, from yon rock, the dragon's curst abode, 
Wretch that I am, have in these hands just borne : 
With lamentations my whole house resounds. 
I, a forlorn old man, my aged sister 
Jocasta come to fetch, that she may lave 
And on the decent bier stretch forth the corse 
Of my departed son. For it behoves 
The living, by bestowing on the dead 
Funereal honours, to adore the god 
Who rules in hell beneath. 

Chor. From these abodes, 

Creon, is your sister just gone forth, 
And on her mother's footsteps did attend 
The nymph Antigone. 

Cre. Inform me, whither, 

And to what scene of recent woe ? 

Chor. She heard 

Her sons by single combat were resolved 
Their contest for this palace to decide. 

Cre. What sayst thou ? I came hither but to grace 
With due sepulchral rites my breathless son. 
Nor of these fresh disasters thought to hear. 

Chor. 'Tis a long time, O Creon, since your sister 
Went hence ; ere now I deem the fatal strife 
Betwixt the sons of CEdipus is ended. 

Cre. Ah me ! an evil omen I behold 
In that deep gloom which overcasts the eyes 
And visage of yon messenger ; he comes, 
No doubt, the whole transaction to relate. 

Messenger, Creon, Chorus. 

Mes. Wretch that I am I What language can I find ? 

Cre. We are undone ; for with a luckless prelude 
Thy speech begins. 

Mes. I yet again exclaim. 

Ah, wretched me ! Most grievous are the tidings 

1 brinsr. 


Cre. Of any farther ills than those 
Which have already happened, wouldst thou speak 

Mes. Your sistei^s sons, O Creon, are no more. 

Cre. Great are the woes, alas I which thou relat'st, 
To me and to this city. 

Mes. Hast thou heard, 

house of Oidipus, how both his sons 
Partook one common fate 1 

Chor. These very walls, 

Were they endued with sense, would shed a tear. 

Cre. Oh, what a load of misery ! wretched me ! 

Mes. Did you but know of your fresh ills — 

Cre. Could fate 

Have any ills more grievous in reser\'e ? 

Mes. With her two sons your wretched sister's dead. 

Chor. In concert wake, my friends, the plaintive strain, 
And smite your heads with those uplifted hands. 

Cre. Hapless Jocasta, what a close of life 
And wedlock, through th' enigma of the Sphinx, 
Hast thou experienced ! But how both her sons 
Were slain in that dire contest, through the curses 
Pronounced by CEdipus their injured sire, 
Inform me. 

Mes. How Thebes triumphed o'er th' assailants, 

And her beleaguered turrets saved, you know ; 
Nor are the walls so distant, but from thence 
Ere now those great events you must have heard. 
Soon as in brazen panoply the sons 
Of aged a£dipus were clad, they stood 
In the midway 'iwixt either host, kings both, 
Of mighty hosts both chieftains, to decide 
This strife in single combat. Then his eyes 
Towards Argos turning, Polynices prayed: 
" O Juno, awful queen, for I became 
Thy votary since the daughter of Adrastus 

1 wedded, and in his dominions found 
A habitation, grant that I may slay 

My brother, and with kindred gore distain 
In the dire conflict this victorious arm ; 


For an unseemly wreath, nor to be gained 

Unless I take away the life of him 

Who springs from the same parents, I to thee 

My vows address." Tears burst forth, in a stream 

Equ;il to the calamity they wailed. 

From multitudes, who on each other gazed. 

Eteocles, then turning to the fane 

Of Pallas, goddess of the golden shield, 

Exclaimed : " O daughter of imperial Jov^^, 

Grant me with vigorous arm a conquering spear 

To hurl against my brother's breast, and smite 

The man who comes to lay my country waste." 

But when Etruria's trumpet with shrill voice 

Had, like the kindled torch, a signal given 

The combat to begin, with dreadful rage 

Against each other rushing, like two boars 

Whetting their ruthless tusks, they fought till foam 

O'erspread their cheeks ; with pointed spears they made 

A furious onset ; but each warrior stooped 

Behind his brazen target, and the weapon 

Was aimed in vain ; whene'er above the rim 

Of his huge buckler either chief beheld 

The face of his antagonist, he strove 

To pierce it with his spear ; but through the holes 

Bored in the centre of their shields they both 

With caution looked, nor could inflict a wound 

By the protended javelin. A cold sweat, 

Through terror for the safety of their friends, 

From every pore of those who viewed the fight, 

Far more than from the combatants, arose. 

But, stumbling on a stone beneath his feet, 

Eteocles had chanced to leave one leg 

Unguarded by his shield ; then onward rushed 

Fierce Polynices with his lifted spear, 

And marking where he at the part exposed 

Most surely might direct the stroke, his ankle 

Pierced with an Argive weapon, while the race 

Of Danaus gave a universal shout. 

But in this struggle, when the chief who first 


Was wounded saw the shoulder of his foe 

Laid bare, he into Polynices' breast, 

His utmost force exerting, thrust his spear. 

Again the citizens of Thebes rejoiced ; 

But at the point his weapon broke : disarmed 

Backwards he sunk, and on one knee sustained 

The weight of his whole body ; from the ground 

Meantime the fragment of a massive rock 

Uprearing, he at Polynices threw. 

And smote his shivered javelin. Of their spears 

Now both deprived on equal terms they fought 

With their drawn falchions hand to hand, the din 

Of war resounded from their crashing shields. 

Then haply to Eteocles occurred 

A stratagem in Thessaly devised, 

Which through his frequent commerce with that land 

He had adopted ; from the stubborn fight, 

As if disabled, seeming to retire, 

His left leg he drew back, but with his shield 

Guarded his flank, on his right foot sprung forward, 

Plunged in the navel of the foe his sword. 

And pierced the spinal joint ; his sides through pain 

Now writhing, Polynices fell, with drops 

Of gore the earth distaining. But his brother. 

As if he in the combat had obtained 

Decisive victory, casting on the ground 

His falchion, tore the glittering spoils away, 

Fixmg his thoughts on those alone and blind 

To his own safety ; hence was he deceived : 

For, still with a small portion of the breath 

Of life endued, fallen Polynices, grasping 

His sword e'en in the agonies of death, 

The liver of Eteocles transpierced. 

With furious teeth they rend the crimson soil, 

And prostrate by each other's side have left 

The conquest dubious. 

Cre. Much, alas ! thy woes 

Do I bewail, for by the strictest ties 
With thee, O CEdipus, am I connected ; 


An nngry god, too plainly it appears, 
Thy imprecations hath fulfilled. 

Mes. What woes 

Succeeded these, now hear. As both her sons 
Expiring lay, with an impetuous step, 
Attended by Antigone, rushed forth 
The wretched mother : pierced with deadly wounds 
Beholding them, " My children," she exclaimed, 
" Too late to your assistance am I come."' 
Embracing each by turns, she then bewailed. 
The toil with which she at her breast in vain 
Had nurtured them. She ended with a groan, 
In which their sister joined : '' O ye who cherished 
A drooping mother's age, my nuptial rites, 
Dear brothers, ere the hymeneal morn 
Have ye deserted." From his inmost breast 
Eteocles with difficulty breathed ; 
His mother's voice, however, reached his ear, 
And stretching forth his clammy hand, no words 
Had he to utter, but his swimming eyes 
Shed tears expressive of his filial love. 
But Polynices, whose lungs still performed 
Their functions, gazing on his aged mother 
And sister, cried, " O mother, we are lost ; 
I pity thee — my sister too 1 pity — 
And my slain brother, for although that friend 
Became a foe, this heart still holds him dear. 
But bury me, O thou who gav'st me birth, 
And my loved sister, in my native land 
Your mediation to appease the city 
Uniting, that of my paternal soil 
Enough for a poor grave I may obtain, 
Though I have lost the empire. Close these eyes 
With thy maternal hand" (her hand he placed 
Over his eyelids), "and farewell : the shades 
Of night already compass me around." 
Their miserable souls they both breathed forth 
At the same instant. When their mother saw 
This fresh calamity, no longer able 


The weight of her afflictions to sustain, 

She from the corses of her sons snatched up 

A sword, and an atrocious deed performed ; 

For through her neck the pointed steel she drove, 

And hes in death 'twixt those she held most dear, 

E'en now embracing both. A strife of words 

Broke forth in the two armies : we maintained 

The triumph to our king belonged, but they 

To his antagonist. Amid the chiefs 

A vehement contention rose ; some urged 

Tliat Polynices' spear first gave the wound ; 

Others, that since both combatants were slain 

The victory still was dubious. From the lines 

Of battle now Antigone retired ; 

They rushed to arms ; but with auspicious forethought 

The progeny of Cadmus bad not thrown 

Their shields aside : we in an instant made 

A fierce assault, invading by surprise 

The host of Argos yet unsheathed in mail ; 

Not one withstood the shock, they o'er the field 

In a tumultuous flight were scattered wide : 

Gore streamed from many a corse of those who fell 

Beneath our spears. No sooner had we gained 

A victory in the combat, than some reared 

The statue of imperial Jove, adorned 

With trophies : others, stripping off the shields 

Of the slain Argives, lodged within the walls 

Our plunder : with Antigone, the rest 

Bring hither the remains of the deceased. 

That o'er them every friend may shed a tear, 

For to the city hath this conflict proved 

In part the most auspicious, but in part 

Tlie source of grievous ills. 

Chor. By fame alone 

No longer are the miseries which this house 
Have visited made public ; at the gates 
Are the three corses to be seen of those 
Who, by one common death, have in the shades 
Of everlasting night their portion found. 


Antigone, Creon, Chorus. 

Ant. The wavy ringlets o'er my tender cheeks 
I cease to spread, regardless of the blush 
Which tinges with a crimson hue the face 
Of virgins. Onward am I borne with speed 
Like the distracted Masnades, not busied 
In Bacchus' rites, but Pluto's, from my hair 
Rending the golden caul, and casting off 
The saffron robe ; o'er the funereal pomp 
(Ah me !) presiding. Well hast thou deserved 
Thy name, O Polynices (wretched Thebes !), 
For thine was not a vulgar strife, but murder 
Retaliated by murder hath destroyed 
The house of Qldipus ; the source whence streamed 
Fraternal gore was parricide. But whom 
Shall I invoke to lead the tuneful dirge. 
Or in what plaints, taught by the tragic Muse, 
Solicit yonder vaulted roofs to join 
With me in tears, while hither I conduct 
Three kindred corses smeared with gore, to add 
Fresh triumphs to that fury who marked out 
For total ruin the devoted house 
Of thee, O Qidipus, whose luckless skill 
That intricate enigma did unfold, 
And slay the Sphinx who chanted it ? My sire, 
What Grecian, what Barbarian, or what chief 
In ancient days illustrious, who that sprung 
From human race, hath e'er endured such ills 
As thou hast done, such public griefs endured ? 
Seated upon the topmost spray of oak. 
Of branching pine, the bird, who just lost 
Its mother, wakes a sympathetic song 
Of plaints and anguish : thus o'er the deceased 
Lamenting, I in solitude shall waste 
The remnant of my life 'midst gushing tears. 
O'er whom shall I first cast the tresses rent 
From these disfigured brows, upon the breasts 
Of her who with maternal love sustained 



My childhood, or my brothers' ghastly wounds ? 

Ho ! QLdipus, come forth from thy abode — 

BHnd as thou art, my aged sire, display 

Thy wretchedness. O thou who, having veiled 

With thickest darkness those extinguished eyes, 

Beneath yon roof a tedious life prolong'st : 

Hear'st thou my voice, O thou, who through the hall 

Oft mov'st at random, and as oft reliev'st 

Thy wearied feet on the unwelcome couch ? 

CEdipus, Antigone, Creon, Chorus. 

CEd, Why, O my daughter, hast thou called me forth, 
A wretch, who by this faithful staff supply 
The want of sight, to the loathed glare of day, 
From a dark chnmber, where I to my bed 
Have been confined, through those incessant tears 
My woes extort, grown grey before my time, 
And wasted by affliction, till I seem 
As unsubstantial as the ambient air, 
A spectre rising from the realms beneath. 
Or wingdd dream ? 

Ant. Prepare thyself to hear 

The inauspicious tidings I relate : 
Thy sons, thy consort too, the faithful staff 
Of thy blind footsteps and their constant guide. 
No longer view the sun. Alas, my sire I 

CEd. Ah me ! The woes I suffer call forth groans 
And shrieks abundant : but inform me how 
These three, O daughter, left the realms of light. 

Ant. Not to reproac'n thee, or insult thy woes, 
My father, but in sadness do I speak; 
Thy evil genius, laden with the sword. 
With blazing torches and with impious war. 
Rushed on thy sons. 

CEd Ah me ! 

Ant. Why groan'st thou thus ? 

CEd. For my dear. sons. 

Ant. 'Twould aggravate thy griefs. 

If thou with eyesight wert again endued, 


The chariot of the sun, and these remains 
Of the deceased, to view. 

CEd How both my sons 

Have lost their lives is evident : but say, 
To what my consort owes her piteous fate ? ' 

Ant. Her tears were seen by all ; lier breasts she 
A suppliant to her sons, whom, near the gate 
Electra, in the mead she found where springs 
The lotus ; like two lions for a den 

With spears had they been fighting : from their wounds, 
Now stiff and cold, scarce oozed the clotted gore, 
Which Mars for a libation had bestowed 
On ruthless Pluto : snatching from the dead 
A brazen sword, she plunged it in her breast : 
Slain by the luckless weapon of her sons, 
Close to her sons thus fell she. On this day 
The god who wrought such horrors, O my sire. 
Hath poured forth his collected stores of wrath 
On this devoted house. 

Chor. This day hath proved 

A source of many evils to the house 
Of Qidipus ; may more auspicious fates 
On the remainder of his life attend ! 

Cre. Your lamentations cease, for it is time 
To mention the interment of the dead. 
But to my words, O Q^dipus, attend : 
Eteocles thy son hath to these hands 
Consigned the sceptre of the Theban realm, 
On Hccmon, at his nuptials with thy daughter 
Antigone, to be bestowed in dower : 
I for this cause no longer can allow thee 
Here to reside : for in the clearest terms 
Tiresias has pronounced that, while thou dwell'st 
In these domains, Thebes never can be blest. 
Therefore depart. Nor through a wanton pride, 
Nor any hate I bear thee, do I hold 
Such langunge, but because I justly dread 
Thy evil genius will destroy this lar.d. 


CEd. How wretched from the moment of my birth 
Me hast thou made, O flUe, if ever man 
Knew misery : ere I from my mother's womb 
Was to the light brought forth, Apollo warned 
The royal Laius with prophetic voice, 
That I, his future child, who 'gainst the will 
Of Heaven had been begotten, should become 
The murderer of my father. Wretched me ! 
But soon as I was born he who begot 
Souglit to destroy me, for in me a foe 
He deemed would view the sun : but 'twas ordained 
That I should slay him. While I yet was loth 
To quit the breast, he sent me for a prey 
To savage beasts ; I 'scaped : but would to Heaven 
Cithaeron had, for saving me, been plunged 
Into the fathomless and yawning gulf 
Of Tartarus ! Fortune gave me for a servant 
To Polybus. But having slain my sire, 
Wretch that I am, my hapless mother's bed 
Ascending, thence did I at once beget 
Both sons and brothers : them have I destroyed 
By showering down on my devoted race 
The curses I inherited from Laius. 
Yet was not I by nature made so void 
Of understanding as to form a plot 
'Gainst my own eyesight or my children's lives, 
Unless some god had interfered. No more. 
What shall I do ? Ah me ! what faithful guide 
My feet, through blindness tottering, will attend .'' 
Jocasta the deceased ? While yet she lived, 
I know she would. Or my two noble sons "i 
They are no more. Have not I youth still left 
Sufficient to find means to gain me food ? 
But where shall I procure it ? Or why thus, 
O Creon, do you utterly destroy me ? 
For you will take away my poor remains 
Of life, if you expel me from this land. 
Yet will not I, by twining round your knees 
These arms, put on the semblance of a dastard : 


For the renown I gained in days of yore, 
Tliough miserable, I never will belie. 

Cre. Thou with a manly spirit hast refused 
To clasp my knees ; but in the Theban realm 
No longer can I suffer thee to dwell. 
Of the deceased, the one into the palace 
Mu=t be conveyed ; but as for him who came 
With foreign troops to lay his country waste, 
The corse of Polynices, cast it forth 
Unburied from the confines of this land. 
This edict, by a herald, to all Thebes 
Will I announce ; whoe'er shall be detected 
Adorning with a garland his remains, 
Or o'er them scattering earth, shall be with death 
Requited : for, unwept and uninterred, 
He for a prey to vultures must be left. 
No longer, O Antigone, lament 
O'er these three breathless corses, but with speed 
To your apartment go, and there remain 
Amidst your virgin comrades till to-morrow, 
When Haemon's bed awaits you. 

Ant. O my sire, 

Into what hopeless misery art thou plunged ! 
For thee far more than for the dead I moan ; 
Thou hast not aught to make thy weight of woe 
Less grievous : the afflictions thou endur'st 
Are universal. But, O thou new king, 
Of thee I ask, why dost thou treat my father 
With scorn, why banish him from Thebes, why frame 
Harsh laws against a wretched corse .'' 

Cre. Such counsels 

Were by Eteocles, not me, devised. 

Ant. Devoid of sense are they ; thou, too, art frantic, 
Who these decrees obey'st. 

Cre. Is it not just 

To execute th' injunctions we receive ? 

Ant. No, not if they are base and ill-advised. 

Cre. What mean you 1 Can it be unjust to cast 
His bodv to the do<TS ? 


Ant. a lawless vengeance 

Is this which ye exact. 

Cre. Because he waged 

An impious war against his native city. 

Ant. Hath not he yielded up his life to fate .'' 

Cre. He shall be punished also in the los5 
Of sepulture. 

Ant. Wherein, if he required 

His portion of the realm, did he transgress 1 

Cre. Know then he shall remain without a grave. 

Ant. I will inter him, though the state forbid. 

Cre. You shall be buried with him. 

Ant. For two friends 

'Twere glorious in their death to be united. 

Cre. Seize and convey her home. 

Ant. I will not loose 

My hold, nor shall ye tear me from his body. 

Cre. O virgin, the decrees of fate are such 
As thwart your wayward views. 

Ant. It is decreed, 

No insults shall be offered to the dead. 

Cre. Over this corse let none presume to strew 
The moistened dust. 

Ant. Thee, Creon, I implore 

By my loved mother, by Jocasta's shade. 

Cre. In vain are your entreaties : such request 
I cannot grant. 

Ant. But suffer me to lave 

The body — 

Cre. I this interdict must add 

To those which through the city are proclaimed. 

Ant. And close with bandages his gaping wounds. 

Cre. To his remains no honours shall you pay. 

Ant. Yet, O my dearest brother, on thy lips 
This kiss will I imprint. 

Cre. Nor by these plaints 

Make your espousals wretched. 

Ant. Dar'st thou think 

That I will ever Uve to wed thy son ? 


Cre. You by necessity's superior force 
Will be constrained. For how can you escape 
The nuptial bond ? 

Ant. I on that night will act 

Like one of Danaus' daughters. 

Cre. Marked ye not 

How boldly, with what arrogance she spoke ? 

Ant. Bear witness, O my dagger, to the oath. 

Cre. Why from this wedlock wish you to be freed ? 

Ant. My miserable father in his flight 
I will attend. 

Cre. a generous soul is yours, 

Abundant folly too. 

Ant. I am resolved 

To share his death ; of that, too, be assured. 

Cre. Go, leave this realm; you shall not slay my son. 

{Exit Creon. 

CEd. Thee, for thy zeal, my daughter, I applaud. 

Ant. How can I wed, while you my father roam 
A solitary exile ? 

CEd, To enjoy 

Thy better fortunes, stay thou here : my woes 
I will endure with patience. 

Ant. Who, my sire, 

Shall minister to you deprived of sight ? 

CEd. I, in whatever field the fates ordain 
Thnt I shall fall, must lie. 

Ant. Where's CEdipus, 

And that famed riddle } 

CEd. Lost, for ever lost : 

My prosperous fortunes from one single day, 
And from one day my mi 11 I derive. 

Ant, May not I also be allowed to take 
A part in your afflictions ? 

CEd. 'Tv%-ere unseemly 

For thee, my daughter, from this land to roam 
With thy blind father. 

ANt. To a virtuous maid 

Not base, my sire, but noble. 


G£d. Lead me on, 

That I may touch thy mother. 

Ant. Here she lies : 

Clasp that dear object in your aged arms. 

CEd. O mother, O my miserable wife ! 

Ant. a piteous spectacle, o'erwhelmed at once 
By every ill. 

OEd. But Where's Eteocles' 

And Polynices' corse ? 

Ant. Stretched on the ground 

Close to each other. 

CEd. a blind father's hand 

Place on the visage of each hapless youth. 

Ant. Lo, here they are ! Stretch forth your hand, and 
Your breathless sons. 

CEd. Remains of those I loved, 

The wretched offspring of a wretched sire. 

Ant. Thy name, O Polynices, shall thy sister 
For ever hold most dear. 

CEd. Now, O my daughter, 

The oracle of Phoebus is fulfilled. 

Ant. What oracle ? Speak you of any woes 
We have not yet experienced .'' 

CEd. That in Athens 

An exile I shall die. 

Ant. Where? In the realm 

Of Attica, what turret shall receive you ? 

CEd. Coloneus' fane, where Neptune's altars rise. 
But haste, and minister with duteous zeal 
To thy blind father, since to share my flight 
Was thy most earnest wish. 

Ant. My aged sire, 

Into a wretched banishment go forth : 
O give me that dear hand, for I will guide 
Your tottering steps, as prosperous gales assist 
The voyage of the bark. 

CEd. Lo, I advance : 

Do thou conduct me, O my hapless daughter. 


Ant. I am indeed of all the Theban maids 
The most unhappy. 

CEd. My decrepit feet 

Where shall I place } O daughter, with a stoff 
Furnish this hand. 

Ant. Come hither, O my sire. 

Here rest your feet : for, like an empty dream, 
Your strength is but mere semblance. 

CEd. Grievous exile. 

A weak old man, he from his native land 
Drives forth. My sufferings are, alas ! most dreadful. 

Ant. What is there in the sufferings you complain of 
Peculiarly distressful ? Doth not justice 
Behold the sinner, and with penal strictness 
Each foolish action of mankind repay .'' 

QLd. Still am I he whom the victorious Muse 
Exalted to the skies when I explained 
The dark enigma by that fiend proposed. 

Ant. Why speak of the renown which you obtained 
When you o'ercame the Sphinx ? Cease to recount 
Past happiness. For, O my sire, this curse 
Awaited you, an exile from your country 
To die we know not where. My virgin comrades 
Leaving to wail my absence, I depart, 
Far from my native land ordained to roam 
Unlike a bashful maid. 

CEd. How is thy soul 

With matchless generosity endued ! 

Ant. Such conduct 'midst my father's woes shall 
My name illustrious. Yet am I unhappy 
Through the foul scorn with which they treat my brother. 
Whose weltering corse without these gates is thrown 
Unburied. His remains, ill-fated youth. 
Though death should be the punishment, with earth 
I privately will cover, O my sire. 

CEd. Go join thy comrades. 

Ant. Willi loud plaints enough 

Have I assailed the ear of every friend. 


(Ed. But at the altars thou must offer up 
Thy supplications. 

Ant. They with my distress 

Are satiated. 

GBd . To Bacchus' temple then 

Repair, on that steep mountain where no step 
Profane invades his orgies, chosen haunt 
Of his own Maenades. 

Ant. Erst in the hides 

Of Theban stags arrayed, I on these hills 
Joined in the dance of Semele, bestowing 
A homage they approved not on the gods. 

CEd. Illustrious citizens of Thebes, behold 
That (Edipus, who the enigma solved — 
The first of men when I had singly quelled 
The Sphinx's ruthless power, but now o'erwhelmed 
With infamy, I from this land am driven 
A miserable exile. But why groan, 
Why utter fruitless plaints ? For man is bound 
To bear the doom which righteous Heaven awards. 

Chor. O venerable victory, take possession 
Of my whole life, nor ever cease to twine 
Around these brows thy laureate wreath divine. 

The Suppliants. 



Chorus of Argive Matrons. 







A Boy, supposed to be Melon, the 

son of 'E.iKOCLVS. 

SCENE— The Temple of Ceres, at Eleusine, in the 
Athenian Territory, 

iExHRA, Chorus, Adrastus. 

JEt. Thou guardian power of Eleusine's land, 

Ceres, and ye venerable priests 

Of that benignant goddess, who attend 
This temple, blessings for myself I crave, 
For my son Theseus, Athens, and the realm 
Of Pitheus, who, when his paternal care 
Had reared my childhood in a wealthy house, 
Gave me to ^geus, to Pandion's son ; 
So Phoebus' oracles decreed. These prayers 

1 offered up when I yon aged matrons 
Beheld, who their abodes at Argos leave, 
And with their suppliant branches at my knees 
Fall prostrate, having suffered dreadful woes : 
Now are they childless ; for before the gates 

Of Thebes were slain their seven illustrious sons, 
Whom erst Adrastus, King of Argos, led 
To battje, when for exiled Polynices, 


His son-in-law, he strove to gain a share 

Of CEdipus' inheritance. The corses 

Of those who by the hostile spear were slain 

Their mothers would consign to earth ; but, spurning 

The laws which righteous Heaven ordained, the victors' 

Will not allow them to remove the dead. 

But needing equally with them my succour 

Adrastus, shedding many a tear, lies stretched 

On earth, bewailing the disastrous fate 

Of those brave troops whom he to battle led. 

Oft he conjures me to implore my son, 

Either by treaty, or his forceful spear, 

Back from those hostile fields to bring the slain 

And lodge them in a tomb : on him alone 

And Athens he this honourable task 

Imposes. Hither were the victims borne, 

That we a prosperous tillage may obtain. 

And for this cause I from my house am come 

Into this temple, where the bearded grain 

P'irst rising from the fruitful soil appeared. 

Holding loose sprays of foliage in my hand, 

1 wait before the unpolluted altars 

Of Proserpine and Ceres ; for these mothers. 

Grown hoar with age and of their children reft. 

With pity moved, and to the sacred branches 

Yielding a due respect. I to the city 

Have s-.nt a herald to call Theseus hither, 

That from the Theban land he may remove 

The causes of their sorrow, or the gods 

Appeasing by some pious rites, release me 

From the constraint these suppliant dames impose. 

In all emergencies discretion bids 

Our feeble sex to seek man's needful aid. 

Chor. An aged woman prostrate at thy knees, 
Thee I implore my children to redeem, 
Who welter on a foreign plain, unnerved 
By death and to the savage beasts a prey : 
Thou see;t the piteous tears which from these eyes 
Unbidden start, and torn with desperate hands 


My wrinkled flesh. What hope remains lor me, 

Who neither, at my home, have been allowed 

The corses of my children to stretch forth, 

Nor, heaped with earth, behold their tombs arise ? 

Thou, too, illustrious dame, hast borne a son 

Crowning the utmost wishes of thy lord, 

Speak, therefore, what thou think'st of our distress, 

In language suited to the griefs I feel 

For the deceased whom I brought forth ; persuade 

Thy son, whose succour we implore, to march 

Across Ismenos' channel, and consign 

To me the bodies of the slaughtered youths, 

That I beneath the monumental stone 

May bury them with every sacred rite. 

Though not by mere necessity constrained, 

We at thy knees fall down and urge our suit 

Before these altars of the gods, where smokes 

The frequent incense: for our cause is just : 

And through the prosperous fortunes of thy son, 

With power sufficient to remove our woes 

Art thou endued : but since the ills I suffer 

Thy pity claim, a miserable suppliant, 

I crave that t ) these arms thou wouldst restore 

My son, and grant me to embrace his corse. 


.^T. Here a fresh group of mourners stands, 

Your followers in succession wring their hands. 
Chor. Attune expressive notes of anguish, 
O ye sympathetic choir, 
And in harmonious accents languish. 

Such as Pluto loves t' inspire. 
Tear those cheeks of pallid hue, 

And let gore your bosoms stain, 
For from the living is such honour due 
To the shades of heroes slain, 
Whose corses welter on th' embattled pi .in. 



I fee] a pleasing sad relief, 
Unsated as I biood o'er scenes of griei; 
My lamentations, never ending. 
Are like the moisture of the sea 
In drops from some high rock descending, 

Which flows to all eternity. 
For those youths who breathe no more 
Nature bids the mother weep, 
And with incessant tears their loss deplore : 

In oblivion would I steep 
My woes, and welcome death's perpetual sleep. 

Theseus, ^thra, Adrastus, Chorus. 

The. What plaints ^re these I hear ? Who strike their 
Attuning lamentations for the dead 
In such loud notes as issue from the fane ? 
Borne hither by my fears with winged speed, 
I come to see if any recent ill . , r . 
May have befallen my mother ; she from home 
Hath long been absent. Ha ! what objects new 
And strange are these which now mine eyes behold .'' 
Fresh questions hence arise : my aged mother 
Close to the altar seated with a band 
Of foreign matrons, who their woes express 
In various warbled notes, and on the ground, 
Shed from their venerable eyes a stream 
Of tears : their heads are shorn, nor is their garb 
Suited to those who tend the sacred rites .'' 
What means all this ? My mother, say ; from you 
I wait for information, and expect 
Some tidings of importance. 

.^T. O my son, 

These are the mothers of those seven famed chiefs 
Who perished at the gates of Thebes : you see 
How they with suppliant branches on all sides 
Encompass me. 


The. But who is he who groans 

So piteously, stretched forth before the gate? 

JEl. Adi-astus, they inform me, king of Argos. 

The. Are they who stand around those matrons' sons ? 

Ml. Not theirs ; they are the children of the slain. 

The. Why with those suppHant tokens in their hands 
Come they to us ? 

JEt. I know : but it behoves 

Them, O my son, their errand to unfold. 

The. To thee who in a ileecy cloak art wrapped, 
My questions I address : thy head unveil. 
Cease to lament, and speak ; for while thy tongue 
Utters no accent nought canst thou obtain. 

Adr. O king of the Athenian land, renowned 
For your victorious arms, to you, O TheseuS, 
And to your city, I a suppliant come. 

The. What's thy pursuit, and what is it thou need'st ? 

Adr. Know you not how ill-fated was the host 
lied ? 

The. Thou didst not pass through Greece in silence. 

Adr. The noblest youths of Argos there I lost. 

The. Such dire effects from luckless war arise. 

Adr. From Thebes I claimed the bodies of the slain. 

The. Didst thou rely on heralds to procure 
Leave to inter the dead .'' 

Adr. But they who slew them 

Deny this favour. 

The. What can they allege 

'Gainst a request which justice must approve .-' 

Adr. Ask not the reason : they are now elate 
With a success they know not how to beai. 

The. Art thou come hither to consult me then, 
Or on what errand ? 

Adr. 'Tis my wish, O Theseus, 

That you the sons of Argos would redeem. 

The. But where is Argos now .'' Were all her boasts 
Of no effect ? 

Adr. We by this one defeat 

Are ruined, and to you for succour come. 

H 2 


The. This on thy private judgment, or the voice 
Of the whole city ? 

Adr. All the race of Danaus 

Implore you to inter the slain. 

The. Why led'st thou 

'Gainst Tliebes seven squadrons ? 

Adr. To confer a favour 

On my two sons-in-law. 

The. To what brave chiefs 

Of Argos didst thou give thy daughters' hands ? 

Adr. My family in wedlock I with those 
Of our own nation joined not. 

The. Didst thou yield 

Those Argive damsels to some foreign bridegrooms? 

Adr. To Tydeus, and to Polynices, sprung 
From Theban sires. 

The. What dotage could induce thee 

To form alliances like these 1 

Adr. Dark riddles 

Phoebus propounded, which my judgment swayed. 

The. Such union for the virgins to prescribe, 
What said Apollo ? 

Adr. That I must bestow 

My daughters on the lion and the boar. 

The. But how didst thou interpret this response 
Of the prophetic god ? 

Adr. By night two exiles 

Came to my door. 

The. Say, who and who : thou speak'st 

Of both at once. 

Adr. Together Tydeus fought 

And Polynices. 

The. Hence didst thou on them 

As on ferocious beasts bestow thy daughters ? 

Adr. Their combat that of savages I deemed. 

The. Why did they leave their native land ? 

Adr. Thence fled 

Tydeus polluted with his brother's gore. 

The. But why did CEdipus' son forsake 
The Theban realm .? 


Adr. The curses of his sire 

Thence drove him, lest his brother he should slay. 

The. a prudent cause for this spontaneous exile 
Hast thou assigned. 

Adr. But they who stayed at home 

Oppressed the absent. 

The. Did his brother rob him 

Of the inheritance ? 

Adr. I to decide 

This contest went, and hence am I undone. 

The. Didst thou consult the seers, and from the altar 
Behold the flames of sacrifice ascend ? 

Adr. Alas ! you urge me on that very point 
Where most I failed. 

The. Thou led'st thy troops, it seems, 

Although the gods approved not, to the field. 

Adr. Yet more, Amphiareus opposed our march. 

The. Didst thou thus lightly thwart the will of 
Heaven ? 

Adr. I by the clamorous zeal of younger men 
Was hurried on. 

The. Regardless of discretion, 

Thy courage thou didst follow. 

Adr. Many a chief 

Hath such misconduct utterly destroyed. 
But O most dauntless of the Grecian race, 
Monarch of the Athenian realm ; I blush, 
Thus prostrate on the ground, to clasp your knees, 
Grown grey with age, and once a happy king ! 
But I to my calamities must yield. 
Redeem the dead, in pity to my woes, 
And to these mothers of their sons bereft, 
To whom the burdens which on hoary age 
Attend are added to their childless state. 
Yet hither they endured to come, and tread 
A foreign soil, though their decrepit feet 
Could hardly move : the embassy they bring 
Hath no connection with the mystic rites 
Of Ceres ; all they crave is to inter 
The slain, as Ihey at their mature decease 


Would from their sons such honours have obtained. 

'Tis wisdom in the opulent to look 

With pity on the sorrows of the poor, 

And in the poor man to look up to those 

Who have abundant riches, as examples 

For him to imitate, and thence acquire 

A wish his own possessions to improve. 

They too who are with prosperous fortunes blest 

Should feel a prudent dread of future woes ; 

And let the bard who frames the harmonious strain 

Exert his genius in a cheerful hour. 

For if his own sensations are unlike 

Those which he speaks of, never can the wretch 

Who by affliction is at home oppiest 

Give joy to others : there's no ground for this. 

But you perhaps will ask me : " Passing o'er 

The land of Pelops, why would you impose 

Such toil on the Athenians .'' " This reply 

Have I a right to make : " The Spartan realm 

Is prone to cruelty, and in its manners 

Too variable •, its other states are small 

And destitute of strength ; your city only 

To this emprise is equal, for 'tis wont 

To pity the distressed, and hath in you 

A valiant king ; for want of such a chief 

Have many cities perished." 

Chor. I address thee 

In the same language ; to our woes, O Theseus, 
Extend thy pity. 

The. I with others erst 

Have on this subject held a strong dispute ; 
For some there are who say the ills which wait 
On man exceed his joys ; but I maintain 
The contrary opinion, that our lives 
More bliss than woe experience. For if this 
Were not the fact, we could not still continue 
To view the sun. That god, whoe'er he was, 
I praise, who severed mortals from a life 
Of wild confusion and of brutal force, 


Implanting reason first, and then a tongue 

That might by sounds articulate proclaim 

Our thoughts, bestowing fruit for food, and drops 

Of rain descending from the skies, to nourish 

Earth's products and refresh the thirst of man, 

Yet more, fit coverings, from the wintry cold 

To guard us, and Hyperion's scorching rays ; 

The art of sailing o'er the briny deep, 

That we by commerce may supply the wants 

Of distant regions, to these gifts by Heaven 

Is added ; things the most obscure, and placed 

Beyond our knowledge, can the seer foretell, 

By gazing on the flames which from the altar " 

Ascend the skies, the entrails of the victims, 

And flight of birds. Are we not then puffed up 

With vanity, if, when the gods bestow 

Conveniences like these on life, we deem 

Their bounty insufficient ? Our conceit 

Is such, we aim to be more strong than Jove ; 

Though pride of soul be all that we possess, 

We in our own opinion are more wise 

Than th' immortal powers. To me thou seem'st 

One of this number, O thou wretch devoid 

Of reason, to Apollo's mystic voice 

Yielding blind deference, who thy daughters gav'st 

To foreign lords, as if the gods were swayed 

By human passions. Thy illustrious blood 

With foul pollution mingling, thine own house 

Thus hast thou wounded. Never should the wise 

In leagues of inauspicious wedlock yoke 

Just and unjust: but prosperous friends obtain 

Against the hour of danger. Jove, to all 

One common fate dispensing, oft involves 

In the calamities which guilt draws down 

Upon the sinner him who ne'er transgressed. 

But thou, by leading forth that Argive host 

To battle, though the seers in vain forbad, 

Despising each oracular response. 

And wilfully regardless of the gods, 


Hast caused thy country's ruin, overruled 
By those young men who place their sole delight 
In glory, and promote unrighteous wars, 
Corrupting a whole city; this aspires 
To the command of armies, by the pomp 
Attending those who hold the reins of power 
A second is corrupted ; some there are 
Studious of filthy lucre, who regard not 
What mischief to the public may ensue. 
Three ranks there are of citizens : the rich, 
Useless, and ever grasping after more ; 
While they, who have no property, and lack 
E'en necessary food, by fierce despair 
And envy actuated, send forth their stings 
Against the wealthy, by th' insidious tongue 
Of some malignant demagogue beguiled ; 
But of these three the middle rank consists 
Of those who save their country, and enforce 
Each wholesome usage which the state ordains. 
Shall I then be thy champion t What pretence 
That would sound honourably can I allege 
To gain my countrymen ? Depart in peace! 
For baleful are the counsels thou hast given 
That we should urge prosperity too far. 

Chor. He did amiss : but the great error rests 
On those young men, and he deserves thy pardon. 

Adr. I have not chosen you to be the judge 
Of my afflictions, but to you, O king, 
As a physician come : nor, if convicted 
Of having done amiss, to an avenger 
Or an opprobrious censor, but a friend 
Who will afford his help : if you refuse 
To act this generous part, to your decision 
I must submit : for what resource have I "i 
But, O ye venerable dames, retire, 
Leaving those verdant branches here behind, 
And call to witness the celestial powers. 
The fruitful earth with Ceres lifting high 
Her torch, and that exhaustless source of light, 


The sun, that we by all the gods in vain 

Conjured you. (It is pious to relieve 

Those who unjustly suliFer, and the tears 

Of these your hapless kindred are you bound 

To reverence, for your mother was the daughter 

Of Pitheus.) Pelops' son, born \\\ that land 

Which bears the name of Pelops, we partake 

One origin with you : will > ou betray 

These sacred ties, and from your realm cast forth 

Yon hoary suppliants, nor allow the boon 

Which at your hands they merit ? Act not thus ; 

For in the rocks hath the wild beast a place 

Of refuge, in the altars of the gods 

The slave : a city harassed by the storm 

Flies to some neighbouring city : for there's nought 

On earth that meets with everlasting bliss. 

Chor. Rise, hapless woman, from this hallowed fane 
Of Proserpine, to meet him ; clasp his knees, 
Entreat him to bestow funereal rites 
On our slain sons, whom in the bloom of youth 
Beneath the walls of Thebes I lost : my friends 
Lift from the ground, support me, bear along, 
Stretch forth these miserable, these aged hands. 
Thee, O thou most beloved and most renowned 
Of Grecian chiefs, I by that beard conjure. 
While at thy knees, thus prostrate on the ground, 
I for my sons, a wretched suppliant sue. 
Or, like some helpless vagabond, pour forth 
The warbled lamentation. Generous youth, 
Thee I entreat ; let not my sons, whose age 
Was but the same as thine, in Thebes remain 
Unburied, for the sport of savage beasts i 
Behold what tears stre .m from these swimming eyes. 
As thus I kneel before thee, to procure 
For my slain sons an honourable grave. 

The. Why, O my mother, do you shed the tear, 
Covering your eyes with that transparent veil ? 
Is it because you heard their plaints ? I too 
Am much affected. Raise your hoary head, 


Nor weep while seated at the holy altar 
Of Ceres. 

^T. Ah ! 

The. You ought not thus to groan 

For their afflictions. 

^T. O ye wretched dames ! 

The. You are not one of them. 

yEx. Shall I propose 

A scheme, my son, your glory to increase, 
And that of Athens 1 

The. Wisdom oft hath flowed 

From female lips. 

^T, I meditated words 

Of such importance, that they make me pause. 

The. You speak amiss, we from our friends should hide 
Nought that is useful. 

M.'X. If I now were mute 

Myself hereafter might 1 jusily blame 
For keeping a dishonourable silence, 
Nor through the fear lest eloquence should prove 
Of no effect, when issuing from the mouth 
Of a weak woman, will I thus forego 
An honourable task. My son, I first 
Exhort you to regard the will of Heaven, 
Lest through neglect you err, else will you fail 
In this one point, though you in all beside 
Think rig«htly. I moreover still had kept 
My temper calm, if to redress the wrongs 
Which they endure an enterprising soul 
Had not been requisite. But now, my son, 
A field of glory opens to your view, 
Nor these bold counsels scruple I to urge 
That by your conquering arm you would compel 
Those men of violence, who from the slain 
Withhold their just inheritance a tomb, 
Such necessary duty to perform. 
And quell those impious miscreants who confound 
The usages established through ail Greece : 
Yox the firm bond which peopled cities holds 


In union is th' observance of the laws. 

But some there are who will assert " that fear 

Effeminately caused thee to forego 

Those wreaths of fame thy country might have gained; 

Erst with a bristled monster of the woods 

Didst thou engage, nor shun ih' inglorious strife : 

But now called forth to face the burnished helm 

And pointed spear art found to be a dastard." 

Let not my son act thus : your native land, 

Which for a want of prudence hath been scorned, 

You see, tremendous as a gorgon, rear 

Its front against the scorner : for it grows^ 

Under the pressure of severest toils. 

The deeds of peaceful cities are obscure, 

And caution bounds their views. Will you not march, 

jVIy son, to succour the illustrious dead. 

And these afflicted matrons .? For their safety 

I fear not, while with justice you go forth 

To battle. Though I no\v on Cadmus' sons 

Behold auspicious fortune smile, I trust 

They will ere long experience the reverse 

Of her unstable die : for she o'erturns 

All that is great and glorious. 

Chor. Dearest ^thra. 

Well didst thou plead Adrastus' cause and mine : 
Hence twofold joy I feel. 

The. He hath deserved, 

O mother, the severe reproofs which flowed 
From my indignant tongue, and I my thoughts 
Of those pernicious counsels whence arose 
His ruin have expressed. Yet I perceive 
What you suggest, that ill would it becom 
The character I have maintained to fly 
From danger. After many glorious deeds 
Achieved among the Greeks, I chose this office. 
An exemplary punishment t' inflict 
On all the wicked. Therefore from no toils 
Can I shrink back, for what would those who hate me 
Have to allege, when you who gave me birth, 


And tremble for my safety, are the first 
Who bid me enter on the bold emprise ? 
I on this errand go, and will redeem 
The dead by words persuasive, or, if words 
Are ineffectual, with protended spear, 
And in an instant, if the envious gods 
Refuse not their assistance. But I wish 
That the whole city may a sanction give : 
They to my pleasure their assent would yield ; 
But to the scheme, if I propose it first 
To be debated, I shall find the people 
More favourable : for ihem I made supreme. 
And on this city, with an equal right 
Fcrali to vote, its freedom have bestowed. 
Taking Adrastus with me for a proof 
Of my assertions, 'midst the crowd Til go, 
And when I have persuaded them, collecting 
A chosen squadron of Athenian youths. 
Hither return, and, halting under arms, 
To Creon send a message to request 
The bodies of the slain. But from my mother. 
Ye aged dames, those holy boughs remove, 
That I may take her by that much-loved hand, 
And to the royal dome of ^geus lead. 
Vile is that son who to his parents yields 
No grateful services, for from his children 
He who such glorious tribute pays receives 
Whate'er through filial duty he bestowed. 


I. I. 
O Argos, famed for steeds, my native plain. 
Sure thou, with all Pelasgia's wide domain. 
Hast heard the king's benevolent design, 
And wilt in grateful strains revere the powers divine. 

I. 2. 
May Theseus put an end to all my woes, 
Rescuing those bloody corses from our foes 


Still objects of maternal love ; his aid 
Shall by th' Inachian realm's attachment be repaid. 

II. I. 
To pious deeds belongs a mighty name. 
And cities saved procure eternal fame. 
Will he do this — with us in friendship join, 
And to the peaceful tomb our slaughtered sons consign ? 

II. 2. 
Minerva's town, support a mother's cause, 
Thou from pollution canst preserve the laws 
Which man holds sacred, thou rever'st the right, 
Sett'st the afflicted free, and quell'st outrageous might. 

Theseus, Adrastus, Chorus. 

The. [to a Herald.] Thou, always practising this art, 
has served 
Thy city, and to various regions borne 
My embassies : when, therefore, thou hast crossed 
Asopus, and Ismenos' stream, address 
The Theban monarch in these courteous words : 
" Theseus, who dwells in an adjacent realm, 
And hath a right such favour to receive, 
Requests you as a friend t^ inter the dead. 
And gain the love of all Erectheus' race." 
To this petition if they yield assent, 
Come back again in peace : if they refuse, 
Thy second message shall be this : " My band 
Of chosen youths in glittering mail arra\ ed 
They must expect : for at the sacred fount 
Callichore e'en now the assembled host 
Halts under arms, prepared for instant fight." 
For in this arduous enterprise, with zeal 
The city of its own accord engaged, 
When they perceived my wish. But who intrudes 
E'en while I am yet speaking } He appears 
To be a Theban herald, though I doubt it. 
Stay ; for thy errand he may supersede, 
And by his coming obviate my designs. 


Theban Herald, Theseus, Adrastus, Chorus. 

The. Her. Who is the sovereign ruler of this land ? 
To whom must I unfold the message sent 
By Creon, who presides o'er the domains 
Of Cadmus, since before Thebes' sevenfold gates. 
Slain by his brother Polynices' hand, 
Eteocles expired ? 

The. With an untruth 

Thy speech, O stranger, hast thou oped by asking 
For a king here : for Athens, this free city. 
By no one man is governed, but the people 
Rule in succession year by year ; to wealth 
No preference is allowed, but the poor man 
An equal share of empire doth possess. 

The. Her. By yielding up this point, to me you 
Advantage such as equals the first throw 
At dice : the city whence I came is ruled 
By one man only, not by multitudes ; 
No crafty orator with specious words 
For his own interest turns the wavering minds 
Of its inhabitants, this moment dear 
To all around and lavish of his favours. 
The next a public bane, yet he conceals 
By some fresh calumny his errors past. 
And 'scapes the stroke of justice. How can they 
Who no sound judgments form, the people, guide 
A city well 1 For time instead of haste 
Affords the best instructions. But the man 
Who tills the ground, by poverty deprest. 
If to that poverty he add the want 
Of due experience, through the manual toils 
He is engaged in, to the public good 
Can ne'er look up. Those too of noble birth 
Are much disgusted when the worthless hold 
Posts of the highest rank, and he who erst 
Was nothing with his tongue beguiles the crowd. 

The. This wittv herald to his message adds 


The flowers of eloquence. But on this strife 

Since thou hast entered, hear me ; for 'twas thou 

That gav'st the challenge to debate. No curse 

Is greater to a city than a king. 

For first, where'er no laws exist which bind 

The whole community, and one man rules, 

Upon his arbitrary will alone 

Depend the laws, and all thy rights are lost. 

But under written laws the poor and rich 

An equal justice find ; and if reproached, 

They of low station may with equal scorn 

Answer the taunting arrogance of wealth ; 

And an inferior, if his cause be just, 

Conquers the powerful. This too is a mark 

Of freedom, where the man who can propose 

Some wholesome counsel for the public weal 

Is by the herald called upon to speak : 

Then he who with a generous zeal accepts 

Such offer gains renown, but he who likes not 

His thoughts to utter still continues mute. 

How can a city be administered 

With more equality .-' Where'er the people 

Are sovereigns of the land, a rising race 

Of heroes gives them joy ; but these a king 

Esteems his foes ; the brave, with those who bear 

The character of wise, he slays, still trembling 

For his ill-gotten power. How can that city 

On a firm basis stand where valiant youths, 

Like the green sheaf cut from the vernal mead, 

Are in their bloom mown down 'i Why then acquire 

Large fortunes for our children, to augment 

The treasures of a king .'' Or why train up 

Our virgin daughters with an anxious care, 

Merely to gratify the loose desires 

Of an imperious monarch, and cause tears 

To stream from their fond parents '( May I end 

My life ere these indignant eyes behold 

The violation of my daughter's honour I 

Thus far in answer to thy speech. Now say, 


What claims hast thou to make on this domain ? 
Wert thou not hither by thy city sent, 
Thou the impertinent harangues thou cain'st 
To utter shouldst bewail. A messenger 
When he hath spoken what his lords enjoin 
Ought to depart with speed. Next time let Creon 
A less loquacious messenger despatch 
To the Athenian land. 

Chor. Alas ! when fortune 

Profusely showers her gifts upon the wicked, 
How insolent they are, as if they deemed 
They should for ever prosper ! 

The. Her. I will now 

Speak what I have in charge ; your thoughts in'.i cd 
Differ from mine on these contested points, 
But I and all the Theban race pronounce 
This interdict : let not Adrastus enter 
The land, or if he be already here, 
Ere yon bright chariot of the sun descends, 
Regardless of these mystic branches borne 
By suppliant matrons, drive him from the realm. 
Nor furiously attempt to take away 
The slain by force, for in the Argive state 
You have no interest. If to my advice 
You yield due credence, by no boisterous waves 
O'ertaken in your course, you cross the deep 
Shall sail your nation's pilot, else the storm 
Of direful war shall burst on us and you. 
And your allies. Deliberate well, nor give 
A haughty answer, by my words provoked. 
And of the freedom of your city vain : 
For a reliance on superior might 
Is most pernicious, oft hath it embroiled 
Contending states, and roused immoderate ire. 
For when whole cities by their votes decide 
In favour of a war, there's not a man 
Expects to perish ; all avert the doom 
Which threats their own, upon another's head. 
But while they give their suffrages, if death 
Were present to their eyes, Greece ne'er had owed 


Its ruin to a frantic lust for war. 

We all know how to choose the better part, 

Distinguish good from ill, and are aware 

That peace, the benefactress of mankind, 

Is preferable to war; by every Muse 

Held justly dear, and to the fiends of hell 

A foe, in population she delights, 

And wealth abundant. But, these blessings slighting, 

We wickedly embark in needless wars ; 

A man to servitude consigns the man 

His arms subdued, on city the same doom 

City imposes. But you aid our foes 

E'en after they are dead, and would inter 

With pomp funereal those who owe their fate 

To their own arrogance. Forsooth, you deem 

That justice was infringed, when smoked the body 

Of frantic Capaneus, by thunder smitten, 

Upon that ladder, which he at the gates 

Erecting, swore he would lay waste our city. 

Or with dread Jove's consent or in despite 

Of the vindictive god : nor should th' abyss 

Have snatched away that Augur, swallowing up 

His chariot in the caverns of the earth : 

Nor was it fitting that those other chiefs 

Should at the gates lie breathless, with their limbs 

Disjointed by huge stones ; boast that your wisdom 

Transcends e'en that of Jove himself, or own 

The gods may punish sinners. It behoves 

Those who are wise to love their children first, 

Their aged parents next, and native land, 

Whose growing fortunes they are bound t' improve, 

And not dismember it. In him who leads 

A host, or pilot stationed at the helm. 

Rashness is dangerous : he who by discretion 

His conduct regulates desists in time, 

And caution I esteem the truest valour. 

Adr. The vengeance Jove inflicted on our crimes 
Should have sufficed : but it behoves not thee, 
Thou most abandoned miscreant, to insult us 
With contumelious words. 


The. Adrastus, peace ! 

Restrain thy tongue, and in my speech forbear 
To interrupt me : for this herald brings 
For thee no embassy, but comes to me, 
And I must answer. First will I confute 
The bold assertion which thou first didst make. 
I own not the authority of Creon, 
Nor can he by superior might enforce 
From Athens these submissions : to its source 
The river shall flow upward ere we yield 
To base compulsion. I am not the cause 
Of this destructive war ; nor did I enter 
The realms of Cadmus with those aim^d bands, 
But to inter the bodies of the slain 
(No violence to Thebes, no bloody strife 
Commencing) is, I deem, an act of justice, 
And authorized by the established laws 
Of every Grecian state. In what respect 
Have I transgressed? If from those Argive chiefs 
Ye suffered augiit, they perished : on your foes 
With glory ye avenged yourselves, and shame 
To them ensued. No longer any right 
Have ye to punish. O'er the dead let dust 
Be strewn, and every particle revert 
Back to its ancient seat whence into life 
It migrated, the soul ascend to Heaven, 
The body mix with earth : for we possess 
By no sure tenure this decaying frame. 
But for a dwelling merely, through the space 
Of life's short day, to us doth it belong. 
And after our decease the foodful ground 
Which nourished should receive it back again. 
Think'st thou the wrong thou dost, when thou deniest 
Interment to the dead, confined to Argos? 
No ; 'tis a common insult to all Greece, 
When of due obsequies bereft the slain 
Are left without a tomb : the brave would lose 
Their courage should such usages prevail. 
Com'st thou to threaten me in haughty strain. 
Yet meanly fear'st to let the scattered mould 


Cover the dead ? What mischiefs can ensue ? 

Will they, when buried, undermine your walls. 

Or in earth's hollow caves beget a race 

Of children able to avenge their wrongs ? 

Absurdly hast thou lavished many words 

In base and groundless terrors. O ye fools, 

Go make yourselves acquainted with the woes 

To which mankind are subject. Human life 

Is but a conflict : some there are whose bliss 

Approaches them, while that of others waits 

Till a long future season, others taste 

Of present joys : capricious Fortune sports 

With all her anxious votaries ; through a hope 

Of better times to her the wretched pay 

Their homage ; he who is already blest 

Extols her matchless bounty to the skies, 

And trembles lest the veering gale forsake him. 

But we, who know by what precarious tenure 

We hold her gifts, should bear a trifling wrong 

With palience, and, if we the narrow bounds 

Of justice overleap, abstain from crimes 

Which harm our country. If thou ask, what means 

This prelude ? I reply : To us who wish 

To see them laid in earth with holy rites, 

Consign the weltering corses of the slain, 

Else is it clear what mischiefs must ensue, 

I will go forth, and bury them by force. 

For 'mong the Greeks it never shall be said 

This ancient law, which from the gods received 

Its sanction, though transmitted down to me 

And to the city where Pandion ruled, 

Was disregarded. 

Chor. Courage ! While the light 

Of justice is thy guide, thou shalt escape 
Th' invidious censures of a busy crowd. 

The. Her. May I comprise in a few words the 
Of our debate ? 

The Speak whatsoe'er thou wilt : 

For no discreet restraint thy tongue e'er knew. 


The. Her. The corses of those Argive youths from Thebes 
You never shall remove. 

The, Now to my answer 

Attend, if thou art so disposed. 

The. Her. I will: 

For in your turn I ought to hear you speak. 

The. On the deceased will I bestow a grave, 
When I have borne their relics from the land 
Washed by Asopus' stream. 

The. Her. In combat first 

Great hazards must you brave. 

The. Unnumbered toils 

Have I ere now in other wars endured. 

The. Her. Was there to you transmitted from your sire 
Sufficient strength to cope with every foe ? 

The. With every villain : for on virtuous deeds 
No punishment would I inflict. 

The. Her Both you 

And Athens have been wont in various matters 
To interfere. 

The. To many a bold emprise 

She owes the prosperous fortunes she enjoys. 

The. Her. Come on, thnt soon as you attempt to enter 
Our gates the Theban lance may lay you low. 

The. Can any valiant champion from the teeth 
Of a slain dragon spring ? 

The. Her. This to your cost 

Shall you experience, though you still retain 
The rashness which untutored youth inspires. 

The. By thy presumptuous language thou my soul 
To anger canst not rouse : but from this land 
Depart, and carry back those empty words 
With which thou liither cam'st : for we in vain 
Have held this conference, \^Exit Theban Herald. 

Now must we collect 
Our numerous infantry in arms arrayed, 
With all who mount the chariot, and the steed 
Caparisoned, his mouth distilling foam, 
Urge to the Theban realm ; for I will march 


Up to the sevenfold gates by Cadmus reared 

This arm sustaining a protended spear, 

And be myself the herald. But stay here, 

Adrastus, I command thee ; nor with mine 

Blend thy disastrous fortunes : for the host 

I under happier auspices will lead 

To the embattled field, renowned in war, 

And furnished with the spear to which I owe 

My glories. I need only one thing more, 

Help from the gods, who are the friends of justice : 

For where all these advantages concur 

They to our better cause ensure success. 

But valour's of no service to mankind 

Unless propitious Jove his influence lend. 

[£x/i Theseus. 

Adr. Unhappy mothers of those hapless chiefs, 
How doth pale fear disturb this anxious breast ! 

Chor. What new alarm is this thou giv'st ? 

Adr. The host 

Of Pallas our great contest will decide. 

Chor. By force of arms, or conference, dost thou mean ? 

Adr. 'Twere better thus ; but slaughter, the delight 
Of Mars, and battle, through the Theban streets, 
With many a beaten bosom shall resound. 

Chor. Wretch that I am ! What cause shall I assign 
For such calamities .'' 

Adr. But some reverse 

Of fortune may again lay low the man 
Who, swollen with gay prosperity, exults ; 
This gives me confidence. 

Chor. Th' immortal gods 

Thou represent'st as if those gods were just. 

Adr. For who but they o'er each event preside .-' 

Chor. Heaven's partial dispensations to mankind 
I oft contemplate. 

Adr. Thou thy better judgment 

To thy past fears dost sacrifice. Revenge 
Calls forth revenge, and slaughter is repaid 
By slaughter ; for the gods into the souls 


Of evil men pernicious thoughts infuse, 
And all things to their destined period guide. 


Chor. O could I reach yon field with turrets crowned 

And leave thy spring Callichore behind. 
Adr. Heaven give thee pinions to outstrip the wind ! 
Chor. Waft me to Thebes for its two streams renowned. 
Adr, There might'st thou view the spirits of the slain 

Whose corses welter on the hostile plain. 

Still dubious are the dread awards of fate. 

But the undaunted king of this domain, 
In yon embattled field what dangers may await. 

Chor. On you, ye pitying gods, again I call, 

In you my trust I place, your might revere, 
And with this hope dispel each anxious fear. 
O Jove, whom love's soft bandage did enthral, 
When beauteous lo met thy fond embrace, 
Erst to a heifer changed, from whom we trace 
Our origin, make Argos still thy care. 
Thy image rescuing from its loathed disgrace, 
To the funereal pyre these heroes will we bear 

Messenger, Adrastus, Chorus. 

Mes. With many acceptable tidings fraught 
I come, ye dames, and am myself just 'scaped 
(For I wag taken prisoner in that battle, 
When the seven squadrons, led by the deceased. 
Upon the banks of Dirce's current fought) ; 
It is my joyful errand to relate 
The conquest Theseus gained : but your fatigue 
Of asking tedious questions will I spare ; 
For to that Capaneus, th' ill-fated chief 
Whom Jove with flaming thunderbolts transpierced, 
Was 1 a servant. 


Chor. O my friend, you bring 

A favourable account of your return, 
And Theseus' mighty deeds : but if the host 
Of generous Athens too be safe, most welcome 
Will be the whole of what you now relate. 

Mes. 'Tis safe ; and what Adrastus strove t' effect, 
When from the stream of Inachus he led 
His forces, and against the Theban towers 
Waged war, is now accomplished. 

Chor. But relate 

How ^geus' son with his intrepid comrades 
Jove's trophies reared, for you th' engagement saw, 
And us who were not there can entertain. 

Mes. In a right line the solar beams began 
To strike the earth ; upon a tower I stood 
Commanding a wide prospect o'er the field. 
Above the gate Electra. Thence I marked 
The warriors of three tribes to the assault 
Advancing in three several bands, arrayed 
In ponderous armour, to Ismenos' stream 
The first division, I am told, its ranks 
Extended ; the illustrious son of .^Egeus, 
Their monarch, was among them ; round their chief 
The natives of Cecropia's ancient realm 
Were stationed ; the Paralians, armed with spears, 
Close to the fount of Mars ; on either flank 
Of battle stood the cavalry disposed 
In equal numbers, and the brazen cars 
Screened by Amphion's venerable tomb. 
Meanwhile the Theban forces were drawn forth 
Without the bulwarks, placing in their rear 
The bodies which they fought for ; fiery steed 
To steed ; to chariot, chariot stood opposed. 
But Theseus' herald, in a voice so loud 
That all might hear, cried out, " Be mute, ye people ; 
Attend in strictest silence, O ye troops 
Who spring from Cadmus ! We are come to claim 
The bodies of the slain, which 'tis our wish 
To bury, in compliance with the laws 


Established through all Greece : we for their deaths 
Require not an atonement." To these words 
No answer by his herald Creon gave, 
Firm under arms the silent warrior stood. 
They who the reins of adverse chariots held 
Began the battle, hurrying through the ranks 
With glowing wheels, nor shunned the lifted spear ; 
Some fought with swords, while others urged th ir 

Again into the fray, encountering those 
Who had repelled them. But when Phorbas, leader 
Of the Athenian cavalry, observed 
The chariots of the foe in throngs advance, 
He and the chieftains of the Theban horse 
In the encounter mingled, and by turns 
Prevailed and were discomfited. I speak not 
From fame alone, but what myself beheld. 
For I was present where the chariots fought, 
And the brave chiefs who in those chariots rode. 
In an assemblage of so many horrors, 
I know not which to mention first ; how thick 
The clouds of dust which blackened all the sky 
Or those who, tangled in the stubborn reins, 
Were dragged at random o'er the field, and bathed 
In their own gore, their chariots overthrown 
Or broken ; others headlong from their seat 
Were violently dashed upon the ground, 
And breathed their last amid their splintered wheels. 
When Creon saw his cavalry prevail. 
Hastily snatching up a pointed spear, 
Onward he marched impetuous, lest his troops 
Should lose their courage ; nor through abject fear 
Did Theseus' bands recoil : without delay 
On to the combat, sheathed in glittering .irms, 
The dauntless chief advanced, and now began 
In the main body of each ndverse host 
A universal conflict ; with the slain 
The slayer mingled lay ; while clamorous shouts 
Were heard from those that to their comrades cried : 


" Strike ! With your spears oppose Erectheus' race." 

A legion sprung from the slain dragon's teeth 

With courage fought, and pressed on our left wing 

So hard that it gave way, while by our right 

Discomfited the Theban squadrons fled. 

Thus in an equal balance long remained 

The fate of war, but here again our chief 

Deserved applause, for he not only gained 

All that advantage his victorious troops 

Could give him, but proceeded to that wing 

Which had been worsted : with so loud a shout 

That earth resounded, " Valiant youths," he cried, 

" If ye repel not those protended spears 

Of the fierce dragon's brood, Minerva's city 

Is utterly destroyed." These words infused 

New confidence in all th' Athenian host. 

Then, snatching up the ponderous club he won 

Near Epidaurus, with his utmost force 

He swang that formidable weapon round, 

Severing, like tender poppies from the stalks, 

At the same stroke, their necks and helmed heads, 

Yet scarcely could he put to flight the troops 

Of Argos. With a shout, then vaulting high, 

I clapped my hands, while to the gates they ran. 

Through every street re-echoed mingled shrieks 

Of young and old, who by their fears impelled 

Crowded the temples. But when he with ease 

The fortress might have entered, Theseus checked 

The ardour of his host, and said he came 

Not to destroy the city, but redeem 

The bodies of those slaughtered chiefs. A man 

Like this should be selected for the leader 

Of armies, who 'midst dangers perseveres 

Undaunted, and abhors the madding pride 

Of those who, flushed with tnumph, while they seek 

To mount the giddy ladder's topmost round. 

Forfeit that bliss they else might have enjoyed. 

Chor. Now I have seen this unexpected day, 
I deem that there are gods, and feel my woes 


Alleviated since these audacious miscreants 

Have suffered their deserts. 

- ADR. Why do they speak 

Of wretched man as wise ? On thee, O Jove, 

Our all depends, and whatsoe'er thou will'st 

We execute. The power of Argos seemed 

Too great to be resisted ; we relied 

On our own numbers and superior might. 

Hence, when Eteocles began to treat 

Of peace, though he demanded moderate terms, 

Disdaining to accept it, we rushed headlong 

Into perdition : while the foolish race 

Of Cadmus, like some beggar who obtains 

Immense possessions suddenly, grew proud, 

And pride was the forerunner of their ruin. 

Mortals, devoid of sense, who strain too hard 

Your feeble bow, and after ye have suffered 

Unnumbered evils justly, to the voice 

Of friends still deaf, are guided by events ; 

And cities, who by treaty might avert 

Impending mischief, choose to make the sword, 

Rather than reason, umpire of your strife. 

But whither do these vain reflections tend .'' 

What I now wish to learn is, by what means 

Thou didst escape : I into other matters 

Will then make full inquiry. 

Mes. While the tumult 

Of battle in the city still prevailed, 
I through that gate came forth by which the troops 
Had entered. 

Adr. But did ye bear off the bodies 

Of those slain chiefs for whom the war arose ? 

Mes. Who o'er seven noble houses did preside. 

Adr. What's this thou saidst 1 But where are all the 
Of the deceased, an undistinguished crowd .'' 

Mes. Lodged in a tomb amid^^Cithasron's vale. 

ADR. Beyond or on this side the mount ? And who 
Performed this mournful duty ? 


Mes. Theseus' self : 

The rock Eleutheris o'ershades their grave. 

Adr. But as for those he hath not yet interred, 
Where did he leave their corses ? 

Mes. Near at hand. 

For every duty that affection prompts 
Is placed within our reach. 

Adr. Did slaves remove 

The dead with their ignoble hands ? 

Mes. No slave 

Performed that office : if you had been present 
You would have cried, " What love doth Theseus bear 
To our slain friends ! " He laved the grisly wounds 
Of these unhappy youths, the couch prepared, 
And o'er their bodies threw the decent veil. 

Adr. Most heavy burden ! too unseemly task ! 

Mes. What shame to feeble mortals can arise 
From those calamities which none escape t 

Adr. Ah ! would to Heaven that I with them had died ! 

Mes. In vain you weep, and cause full many a tear 
To stream from these your followers. 

Adr. Here I stand 

As the chief mourner, though by them, alas ! 
Have I been taught to grieve. Of that no more. 
With hands uplifted I advance to meet 
The dead, and, pouring forth a votive dirge 
To socthe hell's grisly potentate, once more 
Will I accost those friends, of whom deprived 
I wail my solitude. This only loss 
Man never can retrieve, the fleeting breath 
Of life ; but the possessions we impair 
By various means may be again acquired. 

{Exit Messenger. 



Dashed are our jo}'^ with mingled pains ; 
While Athens and its leaders claim 


Fresh wreaths of laurel with augmented fame ; 
Doomed to behold the pale remains 
Of my loved children, bitter, pleasing sight, 
after grief shall feel an unforeseen delight. 

O that old Time's paternal care 

Had kept me from the nuptial yoke. 
What need had I of sons ? This grievous stroke 

Could never then have been my share : 

But now I see perpetual cause to mourn ; 
My children, from these arms for ever are ye torn. 

But lo ! the corses of those breathless youths. 
Ate borne in pomp funereal. Would to Heaven 
I with my sons might perish., and descend 
The shades of Pluto ! 

Adr. Matrons, o'er the dead, 

Fale tenants of the realms beneath, now vent 
Your loudest groans, and to my groans reply. 

Chor. O children, whom in bitterness of soul, 
With a maternal fondness, we accost ; 
To thee, my breathless son, to thee I speak. 

Adr. Ah me ! my woes ! 

Chor. We have endured, alas ! 

Afflictions the most grievous. 

Adr. O ye dames 

Of my loved Argos, view ye not my fate .'' 

Chor. Me, miserable and childless they behold. 

Adr. Bring to their hapless friend each bloody corse 
Of those famed chiefs, dishonourably slain, 
And by the hands of cowards : when they fell. 
The battle ended. 

Chor. O let me embrace 

My dearest sons, and in these arms sustain ! 

Adr. Thou from these hands receiv'st them : such a 
Of anguish is too grievous to be borne. 

Chor. By their fond mothers, you forget to add. 
Wretch that I am ! 

Adr. Ah, listen to my voice. 


Chor. Both to yourself and us these plaints belong. 

Adr. Would to the gods that the victorious troops 
Of Thebes had slain and laid me low in dust ! 

Chor. O that in wedlock I had ne'er been joined 
To any lord ! 

Adr. Ye miserable mothers 

Of those brave youths, who for their country died. 
An ocean of calamity behold. 

Chor. We, hopeless mourners, with our nails have torn 
These bleeding visages, and on our heads 
Strewn ashes. 

Adr. Ah I ah me ! Thou opening ground 

Swallow me up. O scatter me, ye storms : 
And may Jove's lightning on this head descend ! 

Chor. You witnessed in an evil hour the nuptials 
Of your two daughters, in an evil hour 
Apollo's mystic oracles obeyed. 
The wife whom you have taken to your arms 
Is that destructive fiend who left the house 
Of CEdipus, and chose with you to dwell. 

Theseus, Adrastus, Chorus. 

The, The questions I designed to have proposed 
To you, ye noble matrons, when ye uttered 
Your loud complaints amidst th' assembled host, 
I will omit, and mean to search no farther 
Into the moving history of your woes. 
But now of thee, Adrastus, I inquire, 
Whence sprung these chiefs whose prowess did transcend 
That of all other mortals ? Thou art wise, 
And these transactions, which full well thou know'st, 
Canst to our youthful citizens unfold. 
For, of their bold achievements, which exceed 
The power of language to express, myself 
Have been a witness, when they strove to storm 
The Theban walls. But lest I should provoke 
Thy laughter, this one question will I spare ; 
With what brave champion in th' embattled field 
Each fought, and from the weapon of what foe 
Received the deadly wound : for these vain tales 


But serve an equal folly to display 

In those who either hear them, or relate, 

Should he who mingles in the thickest fray, 

From either army, while unnumbered spears 

Before his eyes are thrown, distinctly strive 

To ascertain what dauntless warrior launched 

Willi surest aim the missile death. These questions 

J cannot ask, nor credit those who dare 

To make such rash assertions. For the man 

Who to his foes in combat stands opposed 

Can scarce discern enough to act the part 

Which his own duty calls for. 

Adr. Now attend, 

For no unwelcome task have you imposed 
On me, of praising those departed friends, 
Of whom with truth and justice I would speak. 
Do you behold yon hero's graceful form, 
Through whnch the bolt of Jove hath forced its way t 
This youth is Capaneus, who, though the fortune 
Which he possessed was ample, ne'er grew vain 
Through wealth, nor of himself more highly deemed 
Than if he had been poor, but shunned the man 
Who proudly glories in a sumptuous board. 
And treats a frugal competence with scorn ; 
For he maintained that life's chief good consists not 
In the voracious glutton's full repast, 
But that a moderate portion will suffice. 
In his attachments still was he sincere. 
And zealous for the good of those he loved. 
Whether at hand or absent still the same ; 
Small is the number of such friends as these ; 
His manners were not counterfeit, his lips 
Distilled sweet courtesy, and left not aught 
That he had promised, either to the slave, 
Or citizen of Argos, unperformed. 
Eteoclus I next proceed to name, 
For every virtuous practice much renowned. 
Small were the fortunes of this noble youth, 
But in the Argive region he enjoyed 


Abundant honours : though his wealthier friends 

Oft sought to have presented him with gold, 

His doors were closed against that specious bane, 

Lest he mi^ht seem to act a servile part, 

By riches made a bondsman : he abhorred 

The guilt of individuals, not the land 

Which nourished them : to cities no reproach 

Is due because their rulers are corrupt. 

Such also was Hippomedon, the third 

Of these illustrious chiefs ; while yet a boy, 

To the delights the tuneful Muses yield, 

A life of abject softness, he disdained 

To turn aside : a tenant of the fields, 

His nature he to the severest toils 

Inuring, took delight in manly deeds, 

With fiery coursers issuing to the chase, 

Or twanged with nervous hands the sounding bow. 

And showed a generous eagerness to make 

His vigour useful to his native land. 

There lies the huntress Atalanta's son, 

Parthenopseus, by a beauteous form 

Distinguished : in Arcadia was he bom, 

But, journeying thence to Inachus' stream, 

In Argos nurtured ; having there received 

His education, first, as is the duty 

Of strangers in the country where they dwell. 

He never made a foe, nor to the state 

Became obnoxious, waged no strife of words 

(Whence citizens and foreigners offend), 

But, stationed in the van of battle, fought 

To guard the land as if he had been bom 

An Argive, and whene'er the city prospered 

Rejoiced, but was with deepest anguish stung 

If a reverse of Tortune it endured : 

Though many lovers, many blooming nymphs 

To him their hearts devoted, he maintained 

A blameless conduct. The great praises due 

To Tydeus I concisely will express ; 

Though rude of speech, yet terrible in arms, 


Devising various stratagems, surpassed 
In prudence by his brother Meleager, 
By warlike arts he gained an equal name, 
Finding sweet music in the crash of shields : 
Nature endued him with the strongest thirst 
For glory and for riches ; but his soul 
In actions, not in words, its force displayed. 
From this account, O Theseus, wonder not 
Such generous youths before the Theban towers 
Feared not to meet an honourable death. , 
For education is the source whence springs 
Ingenuous shame, and every man whose habits 
Have erst been virtuous, not without a blush. 
Becomes a dastard : courage may be taught ; 
Just as a tender infant learns to speak 
And listen to the words he comprehends not ; 
But he such wholesome lessons treasures up 
Till he is old. From this example train 
Your progeny in honour's arduous paths. 

Chor. I educated thee, my hapless son, 
Thee in this womb sustained, and childbirth pangs 
For thee endured ; but now hath Pluto seized 
The fruit of all my toils, and I, who bore 
An offspring, am abandoned to distress, 
Without a prop to stay my sinking age. 

Adr. The gods themselves in louder strains extol 
Oicleus' illustrious son, whom yet alive 
They with his rapid coursers snatched away 
And bore into the caverns of the earth. 

The. Nor shall I utter falsehood while my tongue 
Recounts the praise of Polynices, son 
Of (Edipus ; for as his guest the chief 
Received me, ere, a voluntary exile. 
Abandoning his native city reare 
By Cadmus, to the Argive realm he went. 
But know'st thou how I wish thou shouldst dispose 
Of their remains ? 

Adr. All that I know is this, 

Whatever you direct shall be obeyed. 


The. As for that Capaneus, who by the name 
Launched from Jove's hand was smitten — 

Adr. Would you bum 

His corse apart as sacred ? 

The. Even so. 

But all the rest on one funereal pyre. 

At)R. Where mean you to erect his separate tomb .'' 

The. I near these hapless youths have fixed the spot 
For his interment. 

Adr. To your menial train 

Must this unwelcome office be consigned. 
• The. But to those other warriors will I pay 
Due honours. Now advance, and hither bring 
Their corses. 

Adr. To your children, wretched matrons, 

Draw near. 

The. Adrastus, sure thou hast proposed 
What cannot be expedient. 

Adr. Why restrain 

The mothers from their breathless sons' embrace .'' 

The. Should they behold their children thus deformed, 
Tiiey would expire with grief. The face we loved, 
Soon as pale death invades its bloom, becomes 
A loathsome object. Why wouldst thou increase 
Their sorrows ? 

Adr. V ou convince me. Ye must wait 

With patience ; for expedient are the counsels 
Which Theseus gives. But when we have consumed 
In blazing pyres their corses, ye their bones 
Must take away. Why forge the brazen spear, 
Unhappy mortals, why retaliate slaughter 
With slaughter i O desist ; no more engrossed 
By fruitless labours, m your cities dwell, 
Peaceful yourselves, and through the nations round 
A general peace diffusing. For the term 
Of human life is short, and should be passed 
With every comfort, not in anxious toils. 

[Exeunt Theseus and Adrastus. 






No more a mother's happy name 
Shall crown my fortunes or exalt my fame, 
'Midst Argive matrons blest with generous heirs. 

Of all the parent's hopes bereft, 
By Dian, patroness of childbirth left, 

Ordained to lead a life of cares, 

To wandering solitude consigned, 
I like a cloud am driven before the howling wind. 


We, seven unhappy dames, deplore 
The seven brave sons we erst exulting bore, 
Illustrious champions who for Argos bled : 

Forlorn and childless, drenched in tears, 
Downward I hasten to the vale of years. 

But am not numbered with the dead 

Or living : a peculiar state 
Is mine, on me attends an unexampled fate. 

For me nought now remains except to weep : 

In my son's house are left behind 
Some tokens ; well I know those tresses shorn, 

Which no wreath shall ever bind. 

No auspicious songs adorn, 

And golden-haired Apollo scorn ; 

With horror from a broken sleep 

Roused by grief at early mom 
My crimson vest in gushing tears I steep. 

But I the pyre of Capaneus behold 

Already blazing, near his sacred tomb 

Heaped high ; and placed without the fane, those gifts 

Which Theseus' self appropriates to the dead : 

Evadne too, the consort of that chief. 

Who by the thunderbolts of Jove was slain, 


Daughter of noble Iphis, is at hand. 
Why doth she stand upon the topmost ridge 
Of yon aerial rock, which overlooks 
This dome, as if she hither bent her way ? 

EvADNE, Chorus, 



Eva, What cheering oeams of radiant light 
Hyperion darted from his car, 
And how did Cynthia's lamp shine bright, 
While in the skies each glittering star 
Rode swiftly through the drear abodes of night, 
When Argive youths a festive throng 
T' accompany the nuptial song 
For Capaneus and me awaked the lyre.'' 

Now frantic hither am I borne 
R esolved to share my lord's funereal pyre, 
With him to enter the same tomb, 
End with him this life forlorn, 
In Pluto's realms, the Stygian gloom. 
If Heaven assent, the most delightful death 
Is when with those we love we mix our parting breath. 

Chor. Near to its mouth you stand and overlook 
The blazing pyre, Jove's treasure, there is lodged 
Your husband whom his thunderbolts transpierced. 

Eva. Life's utmost goal I now behold. 

For I have finished my career : 

With steadfast purpose uncontrolled 

My steps doth fortune hither steer. 
In the pursuit of honest fame grown bold, 

Am I determined from this steep 

Into the flames beneath to leap, 
And mine with my dear husband's ashes blend ; 

I to the couch of Proserpine, 
With him in death united, will descend. 

Thee in the grave I'll ne'er betray : 

I 2 


Life and wedlock I resign 

May some happier spousal day 
At Argos for Evadne's race remain, 
And every wedded pair such constant loves maintain. 

Chor. But, lo, 'tis he ! I view your aged sire, 
The venerable Iphis, who approaches 
As a fresh witness of those strange designs 
Which yet he knows not, and will grieve to hear. 

Iphis, Chorus, Evadne. 

I PH. O most unhappy ! Hither am I come, 
A miserable old man, with twofold griefs 
By Heaven afflicted ; to his native land, 
The body of Eteoclus, my son. 
Slain by a Theban javelin, to convey, 
And seek my daughter, with impetuous step 
Who rushed from her apartment ; in the bond 
Of wedlock she to Capaneus was joined, 
And wishes to accompany in death 
Her husband ; for a time she in my house 
Was guarded, but since I no longer watched her, 
'Midst the confusion of our present ills 
She 'scaped ; but we have reason to suspect 
That she is here ; inform us, if ye know. 

Eva. Why do you question them ? Here on this rock 
I, O my father, o'er the blazing pyre 
Of Capaneus stand, hovering like a bird. 

Iph. What gale hnth borne ihee hither 1 Or what means 
That robe, my daughter ? Wherefore, from thy home 
, Departing, to this region didst thou fly .'' 

Eva. 'Twould but exasperate you to be informed 
Of my intentions : therefore, O my sire, 
Am I unwilling you should hear. 

Iph. Wimt schemes 

Are these which thy own father may not know .'' 

Eva. In you I should not find an equal judge 
Of my intentions. 

Iph. But on what account 

Thy person with that habit hast thou graced ? I 


Eva. a splendid action, O my sire, the robe 
I wear denotes. 

I PH. Ill-suited is a garb 

So costly to the matron who bewails 
Her husband's death . 

Eva. For an unheard-of purpose 

In gay habiliments am I attired. 

Iph. Why stand's! thou near the grave and blazing 
pyre ? 

Eva. Hither I come to gain a mighty conquest. 

Iph. O'er whom wouldst thou prevail .' I wish to know. 

Eva. O'er every woman whom the sun beholds. 

Iph. By Pallas in the labours of the loom 
Instructed, or with a judicious soul, 
That best of gifts endued ? 

Eva. With dauntless courage : 

For in the grave I with my breathless lord 
Shall be united. 

Iph. What is it thou say'st .'' 

Or with what views a riddle thus absurd 
Hast thou propounded "i 

Eva. Hence into the pyre 

Of Capaneus will I leap down. 

Iph. My daughter. 

Before the multitude forbear to hold 
This language. 

Eva. There is nothing I have said 

But what I wish that every Argive knew. 

Iph. Yet will I not consent thou shouldst fulfil 
Thy desperate purpose. 

Eva ^as she is throwing herself from the Rock.'\ 
It is aU the same : 
Nor can you now by stretching forth your hand 
Stop my career. Already have I taken 
The fatal leap, and hence descend, with joy 
Though not indeed to you, yet to myself, 
And to my lord, with whose remains I blaze. 

Chor. Thou hast committed an atrocious deed, 
O woman. 


I PH. Wretched me ! I am undone, 

Ye dames of Argos. 

Chor. Horrid are these ills 

Which thou endur'st, the deed thine eyes behold 
Is the most daring. 

I PH. No man can ye find 

Than me more miserable. 

Chor. O wretch ! A portion 

Of CEdipus' fortunes was reserved 
For thee in thy old age : thou too, my city, 
Art visited by the severest woes. 

I PH. Why was this privilege, alas ! denied 
To mortals, twice to flourish in the bloom 
Of youth, and for a second time grow old 1 
For in our houses, we, if aught is found 
To have been ill contrived, amend the fault 
Which our maturer judgment hath descried ; 
While each important error in our life 
Admits of no reform : but if with youth 
And ripe old age we twice had been indulged, 
Each devious step that marked our first career 
We in our second might set right. For children, 
Seeing that others had them, much I wished, 
And pined away with vehement desire : 
But if I had already felt these pangs. 
And from my own experience learnt how great 
Is the calamity to a fond father 
To be bereft of all his hopeful race, 
I into such distress had never fallen 
As now o'erwhelms me, who begot a youth 
Distinguished by his courage, and of him 
Am now deprived. No more. But what remains 
For me — wretch that I am ? Shall I return 
To my own home, view many houses left 
Without inhabitants, and waste the dregs 
Of life in hopeless anguish, or repair 
To the abode of Capaneus, with joy 
By me frequented while my daughter lived ? 
But she is now no more, who loved to kiss 


My furrowed cheeks and stroked this hoary head. 
Nought can dehght us more than the attention 
Which to her aged sire a daughter pays : 
Though our male progeny have souls endued 
With courage far superior, yet less gently 
Do they these soothing offices perform. 
Will ye not quickly drag me to my home, 
And in some dungeon's gloomy hold confine, 
To wear away these aged limbs by famine ? 
Me, what, alas ! can it avail to touch 
My daughter's bones ! WHiat hatred do I bear 
To thee, O irresistible old age ! 
Them, too, my soul abhors who vainly strive 
To lengthen out our little span of life ; 
By th' easy vehicle, the downy couch, 
And by the boasted aid of mngic song, 
Labouring to turn aside from his career 
Remorseless death : when they who have no longer 
The strength required to serve their native land 
Should vanish, and to younger men give place. 

Semichor. Lo, there the bones of my slain sons, whose 
Already in funereal pyres have blazed, 
Are borne along. Support a weak old woman : 
The pangs which for my children's loss I feel 
Deprive me of all strength. I long have mourned, 
And am enervated by many griefs. 
Can any curse severer be devised 
For mortals than to see their children dead ? 

Boy. O my unhappy mother, from the flames 
I bear my father's relics, which my sorrows 
Have made more weighty : this small urn contains 
All my possessions. 

Semichor. Why dost thou convey 

The sad and pleasing cause of many tears 
To the afflicted mothers of the slain, 
A little heap of ashes in the stead 
Of those who in Mycenae were renowned ? 

Boy. But I, a wretched orphan, and bereft 


Of my unhappy father, shall receive 
For my whole portion a deserted house, 
Torn from the tutelary arms of him 
To whom I owe my birth. 

Semichor. Where, where are those 

Whom sorrowing I brought forth, whom at my breast 
With a maternal tenderness I reared. 
Their slumbers watched, and sweetest kisses gave ? 

Boy. Your children are departed, they exist 
No longer, O my mother ; they are gone 
For ever, by devouring flames consumed ; 
In the mid-air they float, borne on light wing 
To Pluto. O my sire, for sure thou hear'st 
Thy children's lamentations, shall I bear 
The shield hereafter to avenge thy death 1 

Iph. May the time come, my son, when the just gods 
To me shall for thy valiant father's death 
A fiill atonement grant : that grievous loss 
In this torn heart yet rankles unappeased. 

Boy. I our hard fortunes have enough bewailed, 
My sorrows are sufficient. I will take 
My stand where chosen Grecian chiefs, arrayed 
In brazen arms, with transport will receive me 
Th' avenger of my sire. E'en now these eyes 
Behold thee, O my father, on my cheeks 
A kiss imprinting, though the winds have borne 
Thy noble exhortations far away. 
But thou hast left two mourners here behind, 
Me and my mother : venerable man, 
No time can from thy wounded soul efface 
The grief thou for thy children feel'st. 

Iph. The load 

Of anguish which I suffer is so great 
That it hath quite o'ercome me. Hither bring. 
And let me clasp those ashes to my breast. 

Boy. These bitter lamentations have I heard 
With streaming tears ; they rend my inmost soul. 

Iph. Thou, O my son, art lost ; and I no more 
Thy mother's dear, dear image shall behold. 


Theseus, Adrastus, Iphis, Chorus. 

The. Behold ye, O Adrastus, and ye dames 
Of Argive race, these children, in their hands 
Bearing the relics of their valiant sires, 
By me redeemed ? Athens and I, these gifts 
On you bestow : still are ye bound to cherish 
A memory of those benefits, obtained 
Through my victorious spear. To all I speak 
In the same terms. With honour due repay 
This city, and the kindness which from us 
Ye have experienced to your children's children 
Transmit through latest ages. But let Jove 
Bear witness, with what tokens of our bounty 
Ye from this realm depart. 

Adr. Full well we know 

What favours you, O Theseus, have conferred 
Upon the Argive land, when most it needed 
A benefactor ; hence will we retain 
Such gratitude as time shall ne'er efface. 
For we, the generous treatment which from you 
We have received, as largely should requite. 

The. Is there aught else I can bestow 1 

Adr. All hail ; 

For you and Athens every bliss deserve. 

The. May Heaven this wish accomplish ! and mayst 
My friend, with equal happiness be crowned. 

Minerva, Theseus, Adrastus, Iphis, Chorus. 

MiN. Attend, O Theseus, to Minerva's words. 
And thou shalt learn what thou must do to serve 
This country ; give not to the boys these bones 
To bear to Argos, on such easy terms 
Dismissing them. But to requite the toils 
Of thee and of thy city, first exact 
A solemn oath, and let Adrastus swear. 
For he, its king, for the whole Argive realm 
Is qualified to answer, and be this 
The form prescribed : " Ne'er will Mycene's sons 


Into this land a hostile squadron lead, 

But hence, with their protended spears, repel 

Each fierce invader." If the sacred oath 

They impiously should violate, and march 

Against thy city, pray that utter ruin 

May light on Argos, and its perjured state. 

But where the gods require that thou shalt slay 

The victims, I will tell thee ; in thy palace 

On brazen feet a massive tripod stands 

"W'hich erst Alcides, when the walls of Troy 

He from their basis had o'erthrown, and rushed 

New labours to accomplish, gave command 

Close to the Pythian altar should be placed. 

When on this tripod thou hast slain three sheep, 

The destined victims, in its hollow rim 

Inscribe the oath ; then to that god consign 

Who o'er the Delphic realm presides : such tablet 

To Greece shall testify the league ye form. 

But in the bowels of the earth conceal 

The knife with which the victims thou hast slain, 

For this, when shown, should they hereafter come, 

With armdd bands, this city to assail. 

Will strike Mycene's warriors with dismay, 

And their return embitter. When these rites 

Thou hast performed, the ashes of the dead 

Send from this region, and to them assign 

That grove in which their corses have by fire 

Been purified, the spot where meet three roads 

Sacred to th' Isthmian goddess. This to thee, 

O Theseus, have I spoken : to the boys 

Who spring from those slain Argive chiefs I add : 

Ismenos' city, soon as ye attain 

Maturer years, shall ye in ruin lay, 

Retaliating the slaughter of your sires ; 

Thou too, y^gialeus, a youthful chief, 

Shalt in thy father's stead command tlie host, 

And marching from yEtolia's realm., the son 

Of Tydeus, Diomede by name ; the down 

No sooner shall o'erspread your blooming cheeks, 


Than with a band of Argive warriors clad 

In glittering armour, with impetuous rage, 

Ye the seven Theban turrets shall assail ; 

Them, in your wrath, shall ye, in manhood's prime, 

Like whelps of lions visit, and lay waste 

The city. What have I foretold, ere long 

Will be accomplished. By applauding Greece 

Called the Epigoni, ye shall become 

A theme for your descendants' choral songs, 

Such squadrons ye to battle shall lead forth 

Favoured by righteous Jove. 

The. Thy dread injunctions, 

Minerva, awful queen, will I obey : 
For I, while thou direct'st me, cannot err. 
I from Adrastus will exact that oath, 
Deign only thou to guide my steps aright, 
For to our city if thou prov'st a friend 
We shall enjoy blest safety. 

Chor. Let us go, 

Adrastus, and eternal friendship swear 
To Theseus and his city, for the toils 
They have endured our grateful reverence claim. 





Attendants of Hippolytus. 
Officer belonging to the 

Chorus of Trcezenian Dames. 






SCENE— Before Pittheus' Palace at Trcezene. 


My empire man confesses, and the name 

Of Venus echoes through heaven's wide expanse. 

Among all those who on the distant coast 

Of ocean dwell, and earth's remotest bounds 

Old Atlas' station who upholds the skies, 

Beholding the resplendent solar beams ; 

On them who to my power due homage pay 

Great honours I bestow, and to the dust 

Humble each proud contemner. E'en the race 

Of happy deities with pleasure view 

The reverence mortals yield them. Of these words 

Ere long will I display the truth : that son 

Of Theseus and the Amazonian dame, 

Hippolytus, by holy Pittheus taught, 

E'en he alone among all those who dwell 

Here in Trcezene, of th' immortal powers 

Styles me the v/eakest, loathes the genial bed, 

Nor to the sacred nuptial yoke will bow ; 

Apollo's sister, Dian, sprung from Jove, 

He worships, her the greatest he esteems 

Of all the gods, and ever in her groves 


A favoured comrade of the virgin dwells, 

With his swift hounds the flying beasts of prey 

Expelling from their haunts, and aims at more 

Than human nature reaches. Him in this 

I envy not : why should I ? Yet shall vengeance 

This day o'ertake the miscreant : I have forged 

Each implement already, and there needs 

But little labour to effect his doom. 

For erst, on his arrival from the house 

Of Pittheus, in Pandion's land, to view 

The mystic rites, and in those mystic rites 

To be initiated, his father's wife, 

Illustrious Phaedra, saw the prince, her heart 

At my behest love's dire contagion seized : 

And ere she came to this Troezeninn coast, 

She, where Minerva's rock o'erlooks this land, 

To Venus reared a temple, for the youth 

Who in a foreign region dwelt, engrossed 

By amorous frenzy, and to future times 

Resolved this lasting monumental j ile 

Of her unhappy passion to bequeath. 

But from Cecropia's realm since Theseus fled 

To expiate his pollution, with the blood 

Of Pallas' sons distained, and with his queen 

Sailed for this coast, to voluntary' exile 

Submitting for one year, the wretched Phaedra, 

Groaning and deeply smitten by the stings 

Of love, hath pined in silence, nor perceives 

One of her menial train whence this disease 

Invaded her. Yet of its full effect 

Must not her amorous malady thus fail : 

For I to Theseus am resolved to show 

The truth, no longer shall it rest concealed : 

Then will the father with his curses slay 

My youthful foe : for the reward on Theseus 

Conferred by Neptune, ruler of the waves. 

Was this : that thrice he to that god might sue 

For any gift, nor should he sue in vain. 

Phaedra is noble, yet she too shall perish, 


For I of such importance shall not hold 

Her ruin as to spare those foes, on whom 

I the severest vengeance will inflict, 

That I may reassert my injured fame. 

But hence must I retreat : for I behold 

Hippolytus, this son of Theseus, comes. 

Returning from the labours of the chase : 

A numerous band of servants, on their prince 

Attending, in the clamorous song unite 

To celebrate Diana : for he knows not 

That hell hath oped its gates, and he is doomed 

After this day to view the sun no more. \Exit VENUS. 

Hippolytus, Attendants, 

Hip. Come on, my friends, attune your lays 
To resound Diana's praise, 
From the radiant fields of air 
She listens to her votaries' prayer. 
Att. Awful queen enthroned above. 
Hail thou progeny of Jove, 
Virgin goddess, whom of yore 
Latona to the Thunderer bore, 
Thy matchless beauties far outshine 
Each of those lovely maids divine, 
Who fill with their harmonious choir 
The domes of Heaven's immortal sire. 
Hail, O thou whose charms excel 
All nymphs that on Olympus dwell. 
Hip. To deck thee, I this wreath, O goddess, bear, 
Cropt from yon mead, 6'^er which ri6*swain his ffock 
For pasture drives, nor hath the mower's steel 
Despoiled its virgin herbage; 'midst each flower. 
Which spring profusely scatters, there the bee 
Roams unmolested, and rehgious awe 
Waters the champaign with abundant springs : 
They who owe nought to learning, but have gained 
From nature wisdom such as never fails 
In their whole conduct, are by Heaven allowed 
To cull these sweets, not so the wretch profane. 


Vouchsafe, O dearest goddess, to receive 
This braided fillet for thy golden hair, 
From me a pious votary, who alone 
Of all mankind am for thy worship meet. 
For I with thee reside, with thee converse, 
Hearing thy voice indeed, though I thy face 
Have never seen. My life as it began 
May I with spotless purity conclude ! 

Officer, Hippolytus. 

Off. My royal master (for the gods alone 
Challenge the name of lord), will you receive 
A servant's good advice .■* 

Hip. With joy; else void 

Of wisdom I to thee might justly seem. 

Off. Know you the law prescribed to man ? 

Hip, The law ! 

I cannot guess the purport of thy question. 

Off. To loathe that pride which studies not to please. 

Hip. Right : for what haughty man is not abhorred ? 

Off. Doth then an affable demeanour tend 
To make us popular ? 

Hip. This much avails. 

And teaches us with ease to gain renown. 

Off. But think'st thou that among celestial powers 
It bears an equal influence ."• 

Hip. Since the laws 

By which we mortals act from Heaven derive 
Their origin. 

Off. Why, then, an awful goddess 

Neglect you to invoke .'' 

Hip. Whom ? Yet beware. 

Lest thy tongue utter some imprudent word. 

Off. This Venus who is stationed o'er your gate. 

Hip. Still chaste I at a distance her salute. 

Off. By mortals deemed illustrious she exacts 
Your worship. 

Hip. We select this god, that friend. 

As suits our various tempers. 


Off. Were 3'0ii wise, 

Wise as _\ ou ought, yo;i might be truly happy. 

Hip. I am not pleased with any god whose rites 
Demand nocturnal secresy. 

Off. My son, 

We ought to reverence the immortal powers. 

Hip. Entering the palace, O my friends, prepare 
The viands, after a fatiguing chase 
Delicious is the banquet : tend my steeds, 
That, when I have refreshed myself with food. 
Them I with more convenience to the car 
May yoke and exercise : but as for this 
Thy Cyprian queen, to her I bid adieu. 

\Exeunt Hippolytus a;?^ Attendants. 

Off. Meantime (for the example of young men 
Must not be imitated), prompt to think, 
And hold such language as a servant ought, 
Before thy image I devoutly bend, 
O sovereign Venus, thee doth it behove 
To pardon the rash boy who, flushed with pride, 
Speaks foolishly : seem thou as if his words 
Had never reached thine ear : for sure the gods 
In wisdom should transcend man's grovelling race. 

{^Exit Officer. 



I. I. 

A rock supplies, as we are told, 
In such abundance the exhaustless rill, 
That oft the virgins 'gainst its basis hold 
Their copious urns to fill. 

One of our associate train 

Thither, in the limpid wave, 

Went, her purple vests to lave, 
Then hung them dripping on a cliflf, to drain 

And imbibe the sunny gale : 

I from her first caught this tale : 


I. 2. 

That with sickness faint, alone, 
In yonder palace on her sleepless bed 
Our queen reclines, she a thin veil hath thrown 
Over her beauteous head : 

This the third revolving day, 

Since, o'erpowered by lingering pains. 

She from all nourishment abstains, 
Wasting that lovely frame with slow decay ; 

She thus her hidden griefs would end, 
Thus to the silent grave descend. 
II. I. 

From some god this impulse springs ; 
Sure Pan or Hecate have fired thy brain, 
Or awful Cybel^ to vex thee brings 
Her priests, a frantic train ; 

Perhaps, exulting in the chase, 

Thee Dictynna doth pursue, 

For neglecting homage due 
Her altar with the promised cates to grace. 

She swiftly glides o'er mountain steep, 

Fords the lake or billowy deep. 

II. 2. 

Have another's witching charms 
Seduced the monarch to a stol'n embrace ; 
Doth then a harlot in thy Theseus' arms 
The nuptial couch disgrace? 

Or from Cretan shores I ween 

Some sailor crossed the billowy main. 

Reached this hospitable plain, 
And bore a doleful message to the queen : 

Hence with deepest anguish pained 

In her bed is she detained. 

Some hidden grief with pregnant throes combined 

Oft dwells upon the female mind, 
Erst in my entrails raged this hidden smart : 

Diana, that celestial maid. 


Amid the pangs of childbirth wont to aid, 

I then invoked, and she, whose dart 
Pierces the hind, with tutelary care 

Descended at her votary's prayer, 
And with her brought each friendly power 
Who gfuards our sex in that distressful hour. 

But lo ! her aged nurse before the gates 
Leads out the queen, over whose downcast brow 
Care spreads a deeper cloud : my mmost soul 
Bums with impatience to explore the grief 
Which preys in secret on her fading charms. 

Ph/edra, Nurse, Chorus. 

NUR. Ye wretched mortals, who by loathed disease 
Are visited ! What shall I do co aid thee. 
Or what shall I omit ? The solar beams 
Here mayst thou view, here find a cooling air. 
For we without the palace doors have borne 
The couch where sickening thou reclin'st. Tliy talk 
Was all of coming hither : but in haste 
Back to thy chamber soon wilt thou return : 
For thou, each moment altering, tak'st delight 
In nothing long ; the present quickly grows 
Unpleasing, somewhat absent thou esteem st 
More grateful. Better were it lO be sick 
Than tend the lingering patient , for the first 
Is but a simple ill, the last unites 
The mind's more pungent griefs and manual toil. 
But the whole life of man abounds with woe, 
Our labours never cease . yet sure there is, 
There is a blest futurity, concealed 
Behind thick night's impenetrable veil. 
We therefore seem mistaken, when we dote 
On yonder sun, that o'er this nether earth 
Displays its glittering beams, because we know 
No other life, nor have the realms beneath 
Been e'er laid open : but by tales, devised 
To cheat, at random are we borne away. 

PHyE. Lift up my body, prop my sinking head, 


Each limb, my friends, has lost its strength; sustain, 
O ye who on your wretched mistress tend, 
My hands, which hang quite motionless : away 
With cumbrous ornaments, the caul remove, 
And let these tresses o'er my shoulders flow. 

NUR. Daughter, be cheerful, and compose to rest 
Thy languid frame : thou, if with patience armed 
And generous fortitude of soul, wilt bear 
Thy sickness better. For mankind are doomed 
By fate to struggle with a load of ills. 

PHiE. How shall I drink at yonder limpid fount 
The cooling waters, and 'midst grassy vales 
Recline my wearied limbs beneath the shade 
Of spreading alders 1 

NUR. What confused discourse 

Escapes thee ? Utter not before the crowd 
Such words as closely border on distraction. 

PHiE. Lead to yon mount ; I tread the piny grove, 
Where the staunch hounds along the mazy track 
Follow their prey, and, lightly bounding, seize 
The dappled stag. Ye gods, with my shrill voice 
What joy to rouse them, while my auburn hair 
Floats in the wanton gale, and brandish round 
In my firm hand Thessalia's pointed lance. 

NUR. Whence, O my child, proceed these anxious cares ? 
What business with the chase hast thou ? Why thirst 
For the pure fountain, while a constant spring, 
Whose waters thou mayst drink, flows hard beside 
The citadel ? 

PHiE. Dread Artemis, thou goddess 

Presiding o'er yon sacred lake, who aid'st 
The fleet-hoofed racer, bear me o'er thy fields 
To tame Hennetia's coursers. 

NuR. Why repeat 

These incoherent words ? But now to climb 
The mountain's lofty summit was thy wish 
That thou might'st hunt, then on the sandy beach 
To drive thy steeds. O for an abler seer 
Who can expound what god with iron curb 
Subdues my daughter and perverts thy soul. 


PHiE. Ah, what have I been doing ? Wretched me ! 
From my right senses whither have I wandered ? 
Into this frenzy I, alas ! am plunged 
By some malignant demon. Yet once more 
Cover my head. The words which I have spoken 
Fill me with conscious shame, and many a tear 
Streams down my cheeks ; I feel the rising blush, 
And know not where to turn these eyes. The pang, 
When reason reassumes her throne, is great. 
Though madness be an evil : yet 'tis best 
When in that state unconscious we expire. 

NuR. Thee thus I cover : but ah, when will death 
Cover my body ? A long life hath taught me 
Full many a useful lesson. Friendships formed 
With moderation for the humr.n race 
Are most expedient, and not such as pierce 
The marrow of their souls : with the same ease 
As they the sacred chords entwine they ought 
To slacken them at will. But for one heart 
To suffer twofold anguish, as I grieve 
For my unhappy mistress, is a load 
Beyond endurance. 'Tis remarked, there springs 
From all sensations too intense, more pain 
Than pleasure, and our health they oft impair. 
A foe to all excess, I rather praise 
This sentence, " Not too much of anything ; " 
And in my judgment will the wise concur. 

Chor. Thou aged dame, who hast with steadfast zeal 
Attended royal Phasdra, we observe 
What agonies she suffers, but discern not 
The nature of her malady ; and wish 
By thee to be instructed whence it springs. 

NuR. I know not ; for no answer will she give 
To my inquiries. 

Chor. Nor the source whence rise 

Her sufferings? 

NuR. Your account and mine agree : 

For she on all these points remains still dumb. 

Chor. How faint and wasted seems that graceful 
form 1 


NUR. No wonder ; since she tasted any food 
This day's the third. 

Chor. By Ate's wrath o'ercome, 

Or does she strive to die ? 

NuR. To die she strives, 

And by such abstinence her hfe would end. 

Chor. Strange is thy tale : this cannot please her lord. 

NUR. From him she hides her sickness, and pretends 
To be in health. 

Chor. If in her face he look, 

Can he not read it ? 

Nur. To a foreign land 

From hence, alas ! he went, nor yet returns. 

Chor. Why art thou not more urgent to explore 
This malady, these wanderings of her soul .'' 

NUR. Without effect all methods have- 1 tried : 
Yet with the self-same zeal will I persist, 
That ye may testify the strong attachment 
Which I to my unhappy queen have borne. 

my loved daughter, let us both forget 

What we have said : be thou more mild, that gloom 
Which overcasts thy brow, those harsh resolves. 
Lay thou aside, and if to thee erewhile 

1 spoke amiss, in milder accents now 
Will I express myself; if under pains 
Thou labour, such as may not be revealed, • 
To succour thee thy female friends are here. 
But if the other sex may know thy sufferings. 
Let the physician try his healing art. 

In either case, why silent ? It behoves thee, 
O daughter, to reply ; and, if I speak 
Unwittingly, reprove me, if aright, 
With wholesome admonition, O concur. 
Say somewhat : cast one look this way. Ah me ! 
But listen to this truth, though more perverse 
Than ocean's waves : thy children, if thou die, 
Will be deserted, and can have no share 
In the paternal house : for his first queen. 
That martial Amazonian dame, hath borne 


Their sire a son to lord it o'er thy race, 
Though illegitimate, with liberal views 
Trained up from infancy, him well thou know'st, 

PHiE. Ah me ! 

NUR. Doth then that name 

Affect thee ? 

Ph^. You have ruined me ; peace, peace : 

Be silent, I conjure you by the gods, 
Speak of that man no more. 

Nuk. With open eyes, 

And senses now restored, canst thou neglect 
Thy children's interest, nor preserve thy life ? 

PHiE. I love my clildren : but another storm 
Assails me. 

NUR. O my daughter, sure thy hands 

Are uadefiled with blood ? 

PHjE. My hands are pure, 

Yet doth pollution harbour in my soul. 

NuR. Proceeds this mischief from some foe ? 

VnM. A friend — 

An unconsenting friend, alas ! — destroys me, 
Nor do I perish through my own consent. 

NUR. Hath Theseus wronged thee .'' 

FiiM. May I ne'er be found 

To have injured him ! 

NuR. Then what important cause 

Precipitates thy death .'' 

Ph^. Indulge my error ; 

For I 'gainst you offend not. 

NUR. My assent 

To such request would be a breach of duty. 

Ph^. What mean you by this violence ? Why hang 
Upon my hand ? 

NUR. In suppliant posture thus, 

Thus to thy knees for ever will I cling. 

Phje. If you, unhappy woman, heard my woes, 
You would partake them. 

NuR. What severer woe 


Can possibly befall me than the loss 

Of thee, my honoured mistress ? For I see 

Thou art resolved to perish. 

Ph^e. This affair 

To me will bring renown. 

NUR. Why then conceal 

Those merits into which I wish t' inquire ? 

PHiE. Me virtuous motives prompt to deeds of shame. 

NuR. Reveal those motives, hence shalt thou appear 
More noble. 

Ph^e. O depart, I by the gods 

Conjure you, and release my hand. 

NUR. Not thus, 

If this request from me thou still withhold. 

PHjE. I will comply ; for you, my aged suppliant, 
Such due respect I entertain. 

NuR. In silence 

Will I attend : now is it thine to speak. 

Ph^e. My wretched mother, what a love was thine ! 

NUR. Why shouldst thou name her passion for that bull "i 

Ph^. And you, my hapless sister, Bacchus' wife — 

NuR. What ails thee .-* Why dost thou recount the shame 
Of these thy kindred ? 

Ph^. But of me the third, 

How wretched is the fate ! 

NuR. Thou strik'st me dumb. 

Where will this history end ? 

PHiE. Thence spring my woes, 

Woes of no recent date. 

NuR. I understand 

As little of the secret I would learn, 
As if thou still wert silent. 

PHiE. How should you 

Divine my thoughts so as t' anticipate 
What I would speak ? 

NUR. No prophetess am I, 

These mysteries with precision to unfold. 

Ph^. Say what is that which men entitle love ? 

NuR. Love is a mixture formed of sweetest joys 
And torments most severe. 


Ph^e. The last of these 

Have I experienced. 

NuR. Daughter, ha, what snidst thou ? 

For whom thus burn'st thou with forbidden fires ? 

PHiE. Who is that son of th' Amazonian dame ? 

NUR. Mean'st thou Hippolytus ? 

PHiE. By you, not me, 

That name was uttered. 

NuR. Ah, what words are these ? 

How hast thou ruined me ! This, O my friends. 
Is not to be endured ; I cannot live 
To bear it : to these eyes the lamp of day 
Grows odious ; the encumbrance of-this body 
Will I cast off, nor on such tenure hold 
A being I abhor. And now farewell 
For ever ! Count me dead. Chaste matrons yield 
With some reluctance, yet to lawless love 
At length they yield. Venus is then no goddess, 
But somewhat mere than goddess : for my queen 
And me, and this whole house, hath she destroyed. 



Too clear thou heard'st the royal dame confess 

The horrors which her bosom stain : 
O had I died ere this severe distress 
Shook reason's seat and fired her frantic brain ! 

Thy sorrows are by Heaven decreed. 

Ye miseries on which mortals feed ! 

Thy shame lies open to the sun, 
And thou, my royal mistress, art undone. 
Short is thy date : 
What cruel fate, 

Such as with life alone can end, 

Shall to the grave thy steps attend ! 

I see, I see through time's deep gloom. 

These mansions fall by Venus' doom : 

Such revolution is at hand, 
Thee, hapless Cretan nymph, the fates demand. 


PHi« O ye Troezenian matrons, who reside 
On this extremity of the domains 
Where Pelops ruled ; through many a wakeful night 
Have 1 considered whence mankind became 
Thus universally corrupt, and deem 
That to the nature of the human soul 
Our frailties are not owing, for to form 
Sound judgments is a privilege enjoyed 
By many. But the matter in this light 
Ought to be viewed ; well knowing what is good, 
We practise not. Some do amiss through sloth. 
Others to virtue's rigid laws prefer 
Their pleasures ; for with various pleasures life 
Is furnished ; conversation lengthened out 
Beyond due bounds ; ease, that bewitching pest 
And shame, of which there are two kinds — one leads 
To virtue, by the other is a house 
Involved in woe ; but if the proper season 
For our expressing shame were ascertained 
With due precision, things which bear one name 
Could not have differed thus. When in my mind 
I had revolved these thoughts, to me it seemed 
As if no magic had sufficient power 
To warp the steadfast purpose of my soul. 
Here I to you the progress of my heart 
Will next unfold, since love with his keen shafts 
These wounds inflicted ; studious how to bear. 
As it became me, this abhorred disease, 
I from that time have by a wary silence 
Concealed the pangs I suffer. For the tongue 
Must not be trusted, well can it suggest 
To others wholesome counsels when they err, 
Though to its owner oft it proves the source 
Of grievous ills. I next this amorous rage 
With firmness was determined to endure, 
And conquer it by chastity. At length, 
When all these sage expedients proved too weak 
O'er Venus to prevail, my best resource 
I thought was death : none hath a right to blame 


These counsels. May my virtues be conspicuous ; 

But when I act amiss, I would avoid 

Too many witnesses. That on such deed, 

And e'en the inclination to transgress, 

Disgrace attends, I knew, and was aware 

That if from honour's paths a woman swerve 

She to the world is odious. On her head 

Be tenfold ruin heaped who first presumed 

To introduce adulterers, and defile 

The nuptial couch ; from those of nobler birth 

Begun this evil through our sex to spread. 

For when foul deeds please those who erst have borne 

A virtuous character, to souls depraved 

They recommend themselves beneath a form 

Of seeming excellence. Those too I hate 

Whose words are modest, but their lives impure 

In private. O thou goddess, who didst rise 

From ocean, lovely Venus, how can these 

Without a blush their injured lords behold .■* 

Tremble they not, lest their accomplice darkness, 

Or lest the vaulted roofs of their abodes, 

Should send forth an indignant voice .'' This robs 

Your queen of life, my friends : so shall the charge 

Of having shamed my lord, my children shamed, 

Be never urged against me : free and blest 

With liberty of speech, in the famed city 

Of Athens, they shall dwell, maternal fame 

Transmitted for their portion. E'en the man 

Of dauntless courage dwindles to a slave 

If conscious that his mother or his sire 

Have acted wickedly. One only good, 

A just and virtuous soul, the wise affirm, 

Strives for pre-eminence with life : for time, 

At length, when like some blooming nymph her charms 

Contemplating, he to our eyes holds up 

His mirror, every guilty wretch displays. 

Among that number may I ne'er be found ! 

Chor. Wherever we discern it, O how fair 
Is modesty, that source of bright renown ! 


NuR. O queen, at first, an instantaneous shock, 
I, from the history of thy woes, received : 
Now am I sensible my fears were groundless. 
But frequently the second thoughts of man 
Are more discreet ; for there is nothing strange, 
Nought, in thy sufferings, foreign to the course 
Of nature : thee the goddess in her rage 
Invades. Thou loVst. And why should this surprise? 
Many as well as thee have done the same. 
Art thou resolved to cast thy life away 
Because thou lov'st? How wretched were the state 
Of those who love, and shall hereafter love, 
If death must thence ensue ! For though too strong 
To be withstood, when she with nil her might 
Assails us, Venus gently visits those 
Who yield ; but if she light on one who soars 
With proud and overweening views too high. 
As thou mayst well conceive, to utter scorn 
Such she exposes ; through the boundless tracts 
Of air she glides, and reigns 'midst ocean's waves : 
All things from her their origin derive, 
'Tis she that in each breast the genial seeds 
Of potent love infuses, and from love 
Descends each tribe that fills the peopled earth. 
They who with ancient virritings have conversed, 
And ever dwell among the tuneful Nine, 
Know how to Theban Semele's embrace 
Flew amorous Jove, how bright Aurora stole 
Young Ceplialus, and placed among the gods 
The object of her passion : yet in Heaven 
They still reside, where unabashed they meet 
Their kindred gods ; those gods, because they feel 
A sympathetic wound, I deem, indulge 
Their weakness : and wilt thou refuse to bear 
Like imperfections ? Nature on these terms 
Decreed thou from thy father shouldst receive 
Thy being : look for-other gods, or yield 
Submission to these laws. Hast thou observed, 
How many husbands, men who are endued 


With a superior wisdom, \\hen they see 

The nuptial bed by secret lust defiled, 

Appear as though they saw not : and how oft 

The fathers, if their sons transgress, connive 

At their unhappy passion ? To conceal 

Unseemly actions is no trifling part 

Of human wisdom ; nor should man his life 

Form with too great precision ; for the roof, 

The covering from the storm, the builder leaves 

Less fair, less highly finished. If immersed 

In evils great as those thou hast described, 

How canst thou hope to 'scape ? But if thy virtues. 

Since thou art only human, far exceed 

Thy failings, it is well with thee : desist, 

O my loved daughter, from thy evil purpose. 

And cease to utter these reproachful words : 

For there is nought but contumelious pride 

In thy endeavour to be yet more perfect 

Than the immortal gods : endure thy passion 

With fortitude, since 'twas the will divine 

That thou shouldst love : but give a prosperous turn, 

If possible, to thy disease. For songs 

There are with magic virtues fraught, and words 

Which soothe the soul : hence an effectual cure 

May be obtained : in such discovery man 

Would long in vain be busied, to our sex 

If no spontaneous stratagem occur. 

Chor. Though her advice, .imid thy present woes, 
O Phaedra, be more useful, I applaud 
Thy better purpose : yet applause unsought 
May haply give offence, and to thine ear 
Convey sounds harsher than her specious words. 

Ph^. 'Tis this, e'en this, too plausible a tongue, 
Which states administered by wholesome laws, 
And houses of the mighty, hath o'erthrown : 
Nor should we utter what delights the ear, 
But for renown a generous thirst instil. 

NUR. What means this grave harangue ? No need 
hast thou 


Of well-turned phrases, but the man thou lov'st. 

Look out with speed for those who, in clear terms, 

Will to the prince thy real state unfold. 

But had not such calamities assailed 

Thy life, and thou remained a virtuous dame, 

I ne'er, to gratify thy wild desires, 

Would have enticed thee to a lawless bed : 

But now this great exertion, to preserve 

Thy life, is such as envy could not blame. 

Ph^. Detested speech ! Will you ne'er close that 
And the ungrateful repetition cease 
Of words so infamous ? 

NUR. What I proposed, 

Though culpable it be, far better suits 
Thy interests than severer virtue's rules ; 
For indiscretion, if it save thy life, 
Hath far more merit than that empty name 
Thy pride would make thee perish to retain. 

Ph^. I by the gods conjure you to desist 
(For you, in terms too plausible, express 
Things that are infamous), nor m this strain 
Attempt to prove that, yielding up my soul 
To love, I shall act right : for if you paint 
Foul deeds with specious colours, in the snares 
From which I now am 'scaping I afresh 
Shall be entangled. 

NUR. Hadst thou earlier formed 

These rigid notions, thou shouldst ne'er have erred. 
But since this cannot be, my counsel hear : 
From thee this second favour I request ; 
I in my house have philtres to assuage 
The pangs of love (which but just now occurred 
To my remembrance) ; these, nor to disgrace 
Exposing thee, nor of such strong effect 
As to impair thy reason, yet will work 
On this thy malady a perfect cure, 
Unless through mere perverseness thou refuse 
To make th' experiment : for we from him 


Thou lov'st, must either take a sign, a word, 
Or fragment of his robe, to join two hearts 
In mutual love. 

Ph^. But is this wondrous medicine 

You recommend an ointment or a potion ? 

NuR. I cannot tell. Search for a cure, my child, 
And not instruction, 

Ph^. Greatly do I fear 

Your wisdom will be carried to excess. 

NuR. Know then thou art disposed to be alarmed 
At everything. But whence arise these terrors 1 

Ph^. Aught that hath passed, les-t you to Theseus' son 
Should mention. 

NUR. Peace, O daughter, be it mine 

To manage this aright : I only sue. 
Benignant goddess, sprung from ocean's waves. 
That thou, O Venus, wouldst my projects aid. 
But to our friends within, will it suffice \t^<^<} ■-■ 
The rest of my intentions to unfold. 

\_Exit Nurse. 



I. I. 
O love, whose sweet delusions fly, 
Instilling passion through the eye, 

And steal upon the heart. 
Never thus my soul engage, 
Come not with immoderate rage. 

Nor choose thy keenest dart : 
Not the lightning's awful glare, 
Not the thunderbolts of Jove, 
Such destructive terrors bear, 
As strongly vibrate in the shafts of love. 

I. 2. 
On Alpheus' banks in vain, in vain, 
Or at Apollo's Delphic fane. 

Whole herds of slaughtered kine 
Doth Greece present, if we neglect 


Venus' son, who claims respect, 

Tlie genial couch his shrine : 
With the vengeance of a foe, 
If the deity invades, 
On man he pours forth every woe. 
And crowds with victims all the Stygian shades. 

II. I. 

By Venus was CEchalia's maid, 
Of hymeneal bonds afraid, 

Consigned in days of yore, 
Like a wild filly to the yoke, 
Espoused 'midst horrid slaughter, smoke, 

And rites profaned with gore ; 
Indignant was the virgin led, 
Streaming with dishevelled hair, 
To the stern Alcides' bed, 
While bridal shouts were mingled with despair. 

II. 2. 

Unite, thou sacred Theban wall. 
And fountain famed from Dirce's fall, 

To witness with what might 
Resistless Cytherea came, 
Brandishing ethereal flame ; 

To everlasting night, 
She, beauteous Semele consigned. 
Who to Jove Lyaeus bore : 
Her breath's a pestilential wind, 
Our heads she like the bee still hovers o'er. 

Ph^. Restr.iin your tongues : we, O my friends, are 

Chor. O Phaedra, say what terrible event 
In thy abode hath happened .'' 

PH/E. Not a word 

Must now be uttered : I would hear these sounds 
Which issue from the palace. 

Chor. We are silent : 

Yet must this prelude sure denote some ill. 


PHiE. Wretch that I am ! How dreadful are my woes ! 

Chor. What shrieks, aias ! are these — what clamorous 
By thee now uttered ? Speak, my hapless queen, 
What sudden rumour terrifies thy soul? 

Ph^. We are undone, but stand ye at these doors 
And listen to the uproar raised within. 

Chor. Thou to those portals art already close, 
And in the voice which issues from the palace 
Hast a great interest, therefore say what ill 
Hath happened. 

PHyE. Stern Hippolytus, the son 

Of that intrepid Amazonian dame. 
In loudest tone full many a horrid curse 
Is uttering 'gainst my servant. 

Chor. A mere noise 

Is all I hear, yet cannot I collect 
A single word distinctly : passing through 
These doors their sound hath surely reached thine ear. 

PH/E. He plainly calls her harbinger of vice, 
And the betrayer of her sovereign's bed. 

Chor. Wretch that I am ! Thou, O my dearest queen. 
Hast been betrayed. What counsel can I give ? 
The mystery is laid open ; thou art ruined — 
Utterly ruined. 

Ph^. Ah ! 

Chor. Thy friends have proved 

Unfaithful to their trust. 

PH/E. To her I owe 

My ruin, who, though prompted by her love, 
Unwisely my calamity disclosed, 
Hoping the desperate malady to neal. 

Chor. What part, alas ! remains for thee to act, 
Surrounded by inevitable mischiefs ? 

Ph/E. But one expedient for my present ills 
I know ; their only cure is instant death. 

Hippolytus, Nurse, Ph^dr.a., Chorus. 
Hip. Earth, mother of us all, and sun, whose beams 


Diffuse their splendour wide, what words, unfit 
For any tongue to utter, reached these ears ! 

NUR. Peace, O my son, lest some one hear thy voice. 

Hip. I cannot bury such atrocious crimes 
As these in silence. 

NUR. By that fair right hand, 

Thee I implore. 

Hip. Profane not by your touch 

My garment. 

NuR. Grovelling at thy knees, I crave 

Thou wouldst not ruin me. 

Hip. Why wish to check 

My tongue, if you, as you pretend, have said 
Nought that is blamable ? 

NuR. Yet must my words 

On no account be published 

Hip. To the world 

What's virtuous may with honour be revealed. 

NUR. Forget not thus the reverence, O my son, 
Due to a solemn oath. 

Hip. Although my tongue 

Hath sworn, my soul is from the compact free. 

NUR. O thou rash youth, what mean'st thou ? Art thou 
On the destruction of thy friends ? 

Hip. I hold 

The friendships of the wicked in abhorrence. 

NUR. Forgive me : error is the lot of man. 

Hip. By a fair semblance to deceive the world, 
Wherefore, O Jove, beneath the solar beams 
That evil, woman, didst thou cause to dwell .-* 
For if it was thy will the human race 
Should multiply, this ought not by such means 
To be effected : better in thy fane 
Each votary, on presenting brass or steel. 
Or massive ingots of resplendent gold. 
Proportioned to his offering, might from thee 
Obtain a race of sons, and under roofs 
Which genuine freedom visits, unannoyed 


By women, live. But to receive this worst 

Of evils, now no sooner are our doors 

Thrown open than the riches of our house 

We utterly exhaust. How great a pest 

Is woman this one circumstance displays ; 

The very father who begot and nurtured, 

A plenteous dower advancing, sends her forth, 

That of such loathed incumbrance he may rid 

His mansions : but the hapless youth, who takes 

Tliis noxious inmate to his bed, exults 

While he caparisons a worthless image, 

In gorgeous ornaments and tissued vests 

Squandering his substance. With some noble race 

He who by wedlock a connection forms 

Is bound by hard necessity to keep 

The loathsome consort ; if perchance he gain 

One who is virtuous sprung from worthless sires, 

He by the good compensates for the ills 

Attending such a union. Happier he, 

Unvexed by these embarrassments, whose bride 

Inactive through simplicity, and mild, 

To his abode is like a statue fixed. 

All female wisdom doth my soul abhor. 

Never may the aspiring dame, who grasps 

At knowing more than to her sex belongs, 

Enter my house : for in the subtle breast 

Are deeper stratagems by Venus sown : 

But she whose reason is too weak to frame 

A plot, from amorous frailties lives secure. 

No female servant ever should attend 

The married dame, she rather ought to dwell 

Among wild beasts, who are by nature mute. 

Lest she should speak to any, or receive 

Their answers. But the wicked now devise 

Mischief in secret chambers, while abroad 

Their confidants promote it : thus, vile wretch, 

In privacy you came, with me to form 

An impious treaty for surrendering up 

My royal father's unpolluted bed. 



Sooa from such horrors in the limpid spring 

My ears will I make pure : how could I nish 

Into the crime itself, when, having heard 

Only the name made mention of, I feel 

As though I some defilement thence had caught? 

Base woman, know 'tis my religion saves 

Your forfeit life, for by a solemn oath 

If to the gods I had not unawares 

Engaged myself, I ne'er would have refrained 

From stating these transactions to my sire ; 

But now, while Theseus in a foreign land 

Continues, hence will I depart, and keep 

The strictest silence. But I soon shall see. 

When with my injured father I return, 

How you and your perfidious queen will dare 

To meet his eyes, then fully shall I know 

Your impudence, of which I now have made 

This first essay. Perdition seize you both : 

For with unsatiated abhorrence, still 

'Gainst woman will I speak, though some object 

To my repeating always the same charge : 

For they are ever uniformly wicked : 

Let any one then prove the female sex 

Possest of chastity, or suffer me. 

As heretofore, against them to inveigh. 

{Exit Hn'i'OLYTUS. 

O wretched woman's inauspicious fate I 

What arts, what projects can we find. 
To extricate ourselves, ere yet too late, 
From our distress, or how the snare unbind ? 
Ph^. Just are the sufferings I endure : 

Thou earth and sun, my anguish cure. 
How, O my friends, shall I avoid 
The stroke of fate before I am destroyed ? 
Or how conceal 
The pangs I feel 1 


What tutelary god is near, 

What friendly mortal will appear 

To aid me in this hour of shame ? 

Afflictions and an evil name 

The remnant of my life must vex : 
I now am the most wretched of my sex. 
Chor. Alas ! all now is over ; O my queen. 
The stratagems thy hapless servant framed 
Fail of success, and desperate are thy fortunes. 
Ph;e. O villanous destroyer of your friends, 
How have you ruined me ! May Jove my grandsire 
Uproot you in his vengeance from the earth, 
And smite with thunderbolts that perjured head. 
When I your baleful stratagems foresaw, 
How oft did I enjoin you to conceal 
That fatal truth, from whose discovery spring 
The torments I endure : but you the secret 
Contained not, hence with an unspotted fame 
I cannot die, but some fresh scheme must forge. 
For this rash youth, his soul with anger fired. 
Will to his father my offence relate, 
Inform the aged Pittheus of my woes. 
And with this history, to my foul reproach, 
Fill the whole world. May just perdition seize 
Both you and all who by dishonest means 
Their unconsenting friends are prompt to aid. 

NuR. Thou, O my royal mistress, mayst condemn 
The fault I have committed : for thy griefs 
Are so severe that they awhile o'ercome 
Thy better judgment. But wouldst thou admit 
My answer, I could make one ; thee I nurtured, 
And in thy happiness an interest feel. 
But seai'ching for a medicine to remove 
Thy sickness, what I least could wish I found. 
Success had stamped me wise : for by events 
Are our opinions influenced. 

Ph^. Is it just, 

And satisfactory, thus first to wound, 
And then dispute with me ? 


NUR, We dwell too long 

On this unhappy subject : I confess 
My folly : but, O daugliter, there are means 
To extricate thee still from all thy woes. 

Ph/E. End this harangue ; you counselled me amiss 
At first, and undertook a vile design. 
Go mind your own affairs : be mine the task, 
What interests me, to settle as I ought. [Exit NURSE. 

But, O my noble friends, Troczenian dames. 
Thus far indulgent to my earnest prayer, 
In silence bury what you here have heard. 

Chor. I call, Diana, venerable daughter 
Of Jove, to witness I will ne'er reveal 
Aught of thy sorrows. 

PHvE. Ye have spoken well. 

But after weighing all things in my mind, 
I one expedient have at length devised 
In this calamity, which may secure 
To my loved sons an honourable life, 
And to myself, encompassed by such woes 
As now befall me, some relief afford. 
For I will never scandalize the house 
Of Crete, nor come, after so base a deed, 
Into the presence of offended Theseus, 
To save one single life. 

Chor. Art thou tiien bent 

On mischief such as cannot be recalled ? 

Ph^. To die is my resolve : but by what means 
1 must deliberate. 

Chor. More auspicious words 

Than these I crave. 

PHit. All I from you expect 

Is wholesome counsel. For the Cyprian queen, 
To whom I owe my ruin, I this day 
Shall gratify, thus yielding up my life, 
Vanquished by ruthless love. But after death 
I to another shall become a curse ; 
Hence shall he learn no longer to exult 
In my disastrous fortunes, but acquire 
Discretion, while my anguish he partakes. [^Exil Ph^dra. 




I. r. 

To where yon rock o'erhangs the main 

Waft me, ye gods, thence bid me spring, 
Transformed into a bird, on vigorous wing 
Through trackless ether mid the feathered train : 

With rapid pinions would I soar 
On high above the Adriatic shore, 

And Po's impetuous stream, 

Fixed on whose banks that virgin choir, 

Who spring from an immortal sire, 

Intent on the same dolorous theme. 
Still weep for Phaeton's untimely end. 
While 'midst the purple tide their amber tears descend. 

II. 2. 

On to those coasts would I proceed 
Where the Hesperides their song 

Attune ; no mariner can thence prolong 

The voyage, for, his daring bark t' impede, 

Neptune those hallowed bounds maintains, 

W^here Atlas with unwearied toil sustains 
The heavens' incumbent load ; 
And from a never-failing spring 
Ambrosia's streams their tribute bring, 
Watering those chambers, Jove's abode : 

There the glad soil its choicest gifts supplies 
Obedient to the reign of happy deities. 

II. I. 

Across yon hoarse resounding main, 

O bark of Crete, those hastier gales. 
Which caught the snowy canvas of thy sails. 
Conveyed my mistress, but conveyed in vain ; 

By fate from prosperous mansions torn, 
To nuptial rites unhallowed was she borne. 
And scenes of future shame : 

For surely from her native land. 


To the renowned Athenian strand, 
She with a luckless omen came ; 
Though, to the shore their twisted cables bound, 
With joy the sailors leaped on fair Munychia's ground. 

II. 2, 

Her strength in lingering sickness spent, 
Hence is she ordained to prove 

How great the tortures of unlawful love, 

By the command of angry Venus sent. 
And after struggling long in vain, 

Defeated by intolerable pain, 

Her snowy neck around, 
To bind that galling noose, resolves. 
Which from her bridal roofs devolves. 
Awed by the heaven-inflicted wound : 

Choosing to perish thus with glory blest, 
She, cruel love expels, the soul's tyrannic pest. 

Messenger, Chorus. 

Mes. Ho ! ho ! All ye who near the palace stand, 
With speed come hither ; by the fatal cord, 
Our queen, the wife of Theseus, is destroyed. 

Chor. The deed, alas ! is done. My royal mistress 
Suspended in the noose is now no more. 

Mes. Why are ye not more swift } Will no one bring 
The sharpened steel, that, with its aid, this instant 
The bandage we may sever from her neck ? 

I St Semichor. What shall we do ? Were it not best^ my 
To rush into the palace, and our queen 
Loose from the knot which her own hands have tied ? 

2nd Semichor. Butwhydo the young servants,inthishour 
Of woe, absent themselves ? To be too busy 
Is never safe. 

Mes. Extend the hapless body ; 

Unwelcome office to the lords I serve. [Exit MESSENGER. 

Chor. From what I hear, this miserable dame 
Hath left the world : for they are stretching forth 
Her corse as one who is already dead. 


Theseus, Chorus. 

The. O woman, know ve what loud voice is that 
Within the palace? From the menial train 
Of damsels, shrieks most grievous reached my ear. 
None of my household, opening wide the gates, 
Deign to receive me with auspicious words 
On my return from the prophetic shrine. 
Hath aught befall'n the venerable Pittheus ? 
What though he be already far advanced 
Into the vale of years, yet would his death 
These mansions with a general sorrow till. 

Chor. Fate in its march, O Theseus, hath not pierced 
The aged : they who in the bloom of youth 
Are now cut off your sorrows will demand. 

The. Ah me ! Hath cruel death then torn away 
One of my sons .'' 

Chor. They live, while breathless lies 

Their mother ; and most piteous was her end. 

The. What saidst thou ? Is my dearest Phaedra dead "i 
Through what mischance ? 

Chor. She tied the fatal noose. 

The. Had grief congealed her blood 1 Or was she 
To this by some calamitous event ? 

Chor. .We only know the fact : for to the palace 
Am I just come, O Theseus, that with yours 
My sorrows I may mingle. 

The. Round these brows 

Why do I wear a garland, but to show 
That I the oracle in luckless hour 
Have visited .' Unbar those doors, my servants. 
Open them wide, that I the wretched corse 
Of my dear wife may view, who by her death 
Hath ruined mc. 

[The palace doors are opened, and tlie body of Ph^dra 
is discovered, with a veil tJuown over il.] 

Chor. Thy woes, unhappy queen. 

Were dreadful ; yet thou such a deed hast wrought 


As in confusion this whole house will plunge : 
Presumptuous, violent, unnatural death 
By thine own hand inflicted : for, ah ! who — 
Who but thyself was author of thy fall ? 
The. Wretch that I am ! How many and how 
Are my afflictions ? But of all the ills 
Which I have felt, this last is most severe. 
Me and these mansions with what terrors armed, 
O fortune, dost thou visit I From some fiend 
This unforeseen dishonour takes its rise. 
A life like mine is not to be endured. 
And worse than death itself: for I so vast 
An ocean of calamity behold, 
That I can never hope to swim to land, 
Or stem these overwhelming waves of woe. 
Thee how shall I accost, or in what terms 
Sufficiently deplore thy wretched fate .'' 
Swift as a bird 'scaped from the fowler's hand 
Hence hast thou vanished with impetuous flight, 
To the domains of sullen Pluto borne. 
Grievous, alas ! most grievous are these woes. 
But from some ancient stores of wrath, reserved 
By vengeful Heaven to punish the misdeeds 
Of a progenitor, I sure derive 
This great calamity. 

Chor. Not you alone 

Have such afflictions visited, O king ; 
You but in common with a thousand mourners 
Have lost the noble partner of your bed. 

The. Under earth's deepest caverns would I dwell, 
Amid the shades of everlasting night, 
A wretch best numbered with the silent dead, 
Now I, alas ! for ever am bereft 
Of thy loved converse ; for thou hast destroyed 
Me rather than thyself. Who will inform me 
Whence death, with ruthless destiny combined, 
Thy vitals reached ? Can any one disclose 
The real fact ; or doth this palace harbour 
A menial swarm in vain ? For thee, for thee, 


Alas, I grieve ! What sorrows of my house, 
Too great to be supported or expressed, 
Are these which I have witnessed ! But I perish ; 
These mansions are a desert, and my sons 
Have lost their mother. 

Chor. Thou hast left, hast left 

Thy friends, thou dearest and thou best of women, 
Whom the resplendent sun or glimmering moon 
E'er visited in her nocturnal round. 
O my unhappy, my unhappy queen ! 
This house what dreadful evils have befallen ! 
Thy fate bedews these swimming eyes with tears ; 
But, shuddering, to the sequel of our woes 
Already I look forward. 

The. Ha ! what means 

The letter which she clasps in her dear hand, 
What fresh intelligence can it contain ? 
Hath the deceased here written a request 
For aught that to the marriage bed pertains, 
And her sons' welfare .? Thou pale shade, rely 
On this assurance, that no other dame 
The widowed couch of Theseus shall ascend. 
Or enter these abodes. Yet with such force 
These well-known characters the golden ring 
Of her who is no more hath here impressed 
Allure me, that the seal I will burst open, 
And learn what charge to me she would convey. 

Chor. Some god, alas ! hath in succession her^ped 
Evil on evil : such my fate, that life 
Will be no longer any life to me 
After this deed of horror. I pronounce 
The house of my devoted kings o'erthrown, 
And now no more a house. Yet, O ye god?. 
This family, if possible forbear 
To crush, and listen to my fervent vow. 
Yet, like the soothsayer, my foreboding soul 
An evil omen views. 

The. To my past woes. 

What woes, alas ! are added, far too great 
To be endured or uttered ! Wretched me I 


Chor. What fresh event is this ? Speak, if the secret 
To me you can disclose. 

The. With loudest voice, 

The letter echoes such atrocious crimes 
As are not to be borne. To 'scape this load 
Of misery, whither, whither shall I fly ? 
For I, alas ! am utterly undone. 
What strains of horror have these wretched eyes 
Beheld, in that portentous scroll expressed ! 

Chor. All that is terrible your words announce. 

The. Within the door of my indignant lips 
No longer thus will I contain a deed 
Of unexampled guilt. O city, city ! 
Hippolytus with brutal force hath dared 
To violate my bed, and set at nought 
Jove's awful eye. O Neptune, O my sire, 
Since thou hast firmly promised that thou thrice 
Wouldst grant me what I prayed for ; now fulfil 
One vow, and slay my son, nor let him 'scape 
This single day, if thou with me design 
To ratify the compact thou hast made. 

Chor. Recall that imprecation to the gods : 
For you, O king, your error will perceive ; 
Attend to my advice. 

The. These ears are closed : 

Moreover I will drive him from the land ; 
For of these twofold fates, or this or that 
Must smite him ; Neptune, when he hears my curses, 
Will plunge the miscreant to the shades of hell ; 
Else, cast forth from this region, and ordained 
To wander in some foreign land, a life 
Of the profoundest misery shall he drag. 

Chor. Behold how seasonably your son himself, 
Hippolytus, is coming : O subdue, 
My royal lord, subdue that baleful rage ; 
Consult the good of your unhappy house. 

Hippolytus, Theseus, Chorus. 
Hip. Hearing your voice, I with the utmost speed 
Am hither come, O father ; though whence rise 


These groans I know not, and from you would learn. 
Ha ! what is here ? Your consort, O my sire, 
I see, a breathless cor3e : this needs must cause 
The greatest wonder. Since I left her living 
How short the intervening space ! But now 
She oped those eyes to view the radiant sun. 
What dire mischance befell her, in what manner 
She died, inform me. Are you silent still ? 
In our calamities of no avail 
Is silence : for solicitous to know 
All that hath passed, with greediness the heart 
Explores a tale of woe ; nor is it just, 
My father, your afflictions to conceal 
From friends, and those who are yet more than 

The. O mortals, why, unprofitably lost 
In many errors, strive ye to attain 
A thousand specious arts, some new device 
Still meditating, yet ye neither know 
One rare attainment, nor by your inquiries 
Could ever reach the gift of teaching those 
Who lack discretion how to think aright 1 

Hip. The sage you speak of, he who could compel 
Fools to grow wise, must be expert indeed. 
But since the subtle arguments you use 
Are so ill-timed, my sire, I greatly fear 
Your woes should cause your tongue to go beyond 
The bounds of reason. 

The. With some clearer test 

Man ought to have been furnished, to discern 
The thoughts and sever from the real friend 
Each vile impostor. All the human race 
Should have two voices — one of sacred truth. 
No matter what the other : 'gainst each plot 
Devised by foul injustice, hence the first 
Might in perpetual evidence come forth, 
And none could be deceived. 

Hip. Hath any friend 

Accused me in your ear, and fixed reproach 
Upon the guiltless ? I with dire amaze 

3oi EV RIP WES. 

Am smitten : in such incoherent words 

Your rage bursts forth that horror fills my soul. 

The. Ah, whither will the mind of man proceed 
In its career ? Can nature fix no bounds 
To impudence ? For if this evil take 
Still deeper root through each succeeding age, 
The son grown more abandoned than the father, 
In pity to this world the gods should add 
Another world sufficient to contain 
All those who swerve from justice and the brood 
Of sinners. Look upon that impious wretch. 
Though spnmg from my own loins, who hath defiled 
My nuptial couch ; too clearly the deceased 
His most atrocious villany hath proved. 
Show then thy face before thy injured sire, 
Since to this pitch of unexampled guilt 
Thou hast proceeded. Yet art thou the man 
Who holds familiar converse with the gods 
As though his life were perfect ? Art thou chaste 
And pure from all defilement .-* By thy boasts 
I will not be deluded, nor suspect 
Thou canst impose upon the powers divine. 
Now glory in thy vegetable food. 
Disciple of the tuneful Orpheus, rave 
With Bacchus' frantic choir, and let the fumes 
Of varied learning soothe thee. Thou art caught. 
From me let all take warning, and avoid 
Those artful hypocrites who bait the snare 
With words denoting great austerity. 
While they contrive base projects. She is dead. 
And so thou deem'st thyself secure ; yet hence 
Thy guilt, O miscreant, is more clearly proved. 
What weightier oath, what plea canst thou devise 
This letter to confute, that thou mayst 'scape 
Unpunished for thy crime ? Wilt thou allege 
She hated thee, and that thy spurious birth 
Makes the legitimate thy foes 1 'Twill argue 
That she was prodigal of life, if thus 
She forfeited whate'er her soul held dear 

HippoL vrus. 303 

Through enmity to thee. But man behke 

Is privileged from lust, whose power innate 

Misleads frail woman. Well am I aware 

Both male and female are alike exposed 

To danger, oft as Cytherea fires 

The youthful heart, although a partial world 

Forbear to brand our sex with equal shame. 

But wherefore in an idle strife of words 

With thee should I engage, when here, the corse, 

That witness most irrefragable, lies ? 

With speed an exile from this land depart, 

Nor dare to enter Athens by the gods 

Erected, or the bounds of my domain. 

For if from thee I tamely should submit 

To wrongs like these, no more would Sinnis tell 

How erst I slew him at the Isthmian pass, 

But say my boasts are vain ; nor would the rocks 

Of Schiron, dashed by the surrounding waves, 

Call me the scourge of villains. 

Chor. At a loss 

Am I of any mortal how to speak 
As truly happy : for their lot who once 
Were blest hath undergone a total change. 

Hip. Though dreadful, O my father, is the wrath 
And vehement commotion of your soul. 
The charge against me which now seems so strong, 
If duly searched into, will prove devoid 
Of truth and honour. I am not expert 
At an harangue before assembled crowds, 
Though somewhat better qualified to speak 
Among my youthful comrades, and where few 
Are present : a sufficient cause for this 
May be assigned ; for they who are held cheap 
Among the wise, in more harmonious strains 
Address the people. Yet am I constrained 
By the severe emergency to burst 
The bonds of silence, and begin my speech 
With a discussion of that odious charge 
By you first urged against me, to convict 


And bar me from replying. Do your eyes 

Behold the sun and wide extent of earth ? 

Say, what you list ; of all the numerous tribes 

Who here were born, there's not a man more chaste 

Than I am : the first knowledge I acquired 

Was this — to reverence the immortal gods, 

And with those friends associate who attempt 

Nought by the laws condemned, but are endued 

With a deep sense of virtuous shame, and scorn 

Either themselves to practise or to aid 

Unseemly actions. I ne'er made a jest 

Of those whom I converse with, O my sire. 

But to my friends have still remained the same 

When they are absent as when near at hand : 

And above all, by that peculiar crime 

In which you think that you have caught me now, 

Am I untainted : by impure delight 

I to this day have never been enticed. 

Of love and its transactions nought I know, 

Except what I from casual talk have heard 

Or seen in pictures, but I am not eager 

To look on these, for still my soul retains 

Its virgin purity. But if no credence 

My spotless chastity with you should find, 

On you is it incumbent to show how 

I was corrupted. Did your consort's charms 

Eclipse all other women ? Could I hope 

Beneath your roofs to dwell, and with your wife 

That I the rich inheritance should gain ? 

This sure had been the highest pitch of folly. 

But what a bait is empire ! None at all 

To those who are discreet, unless a lust 

For kingly power already hath corrupted 

Those who delight in it O'er all the sons 

Of Greece, in every honourable strife, 

Is it my great ambition to prevail, 

And be the first ; but rather in the state 

Would I live happy with my dearest friends, 

And occupy the second rank : for bliss 


Exempt from every danger, there is found, 
Transcending all that royalty can give. 
One thing there is by me not mentioned yet : 
Though all beside already have you heard. - 
Had I a single witness like myself, 
Of tried veracity, and could debate 
With her while yet she lived, you from the fact. 
After a strict inquiry, might decide 
Which was the criminal. But now, by Jove, 
Who guards the oath inviolate, I swear, 
And by the conscious ground on which we tread. 
That I your consort never did approach- 
No, not in will or deed. May I expire 
Stript of renown, and overwhelmed with shame. 
Torn from my country, my paternal house, 
An exile and a vagrant through the world, 
Nor may the ocean or the earth receive 
My breathless corse, if I have thus transgressed ! 
I know not whether 'twas through fear she lost 
Her life, and more than this I must not say. 
With her discretion amply hath supplied 
The place of chastity ; I still have practised 
That virtue, but, alas ! without success. 

Chor. Sufficient is it to refute the charge 
That thou this oath hast taken, and called down 
The powers immortal to attest its truth. 

The. Is he not rather an audacious cheat, 
Trusting in magic arts, who dares to think 
He by an oath can bias the resolves 
Of his insulted sire .'' 

Hip. The part you act 

Challenges my astonishment. Were you 
IMy son, and I your father, had you dared 
To violate my wife, I would not banish, 
But kill you. 

The. Seasonable remark : the sentence 

WJiich on thyself with justice thou hast passed 
I will not now inflict ; for instant death 
Is grateful to the wretched. But ordained 


An exile from thy native land to roam, 
A life of tedious sorrow shalt thou drag 
In foreign realms ; such are the wages due 
To an unrighteous man. 

Hip. What means my sire ? 

Instead of waiting till impartial time 
The merits of my conduct ascertain, 
Hence will you banish me ? 

The. Had I the power, 

Be\ ond the ocean, and where Atlas stands 
Upon the utmost limits of the world, 
So strong the hatred which to thee I bear — 

Hip. What, without searching into any proof 
From oath, or witness, or the voice of seers, 
Expel me uncondemned from these domains 1 

The. This letter, which no soothsayer can require 
To make it better understood, the charge 
'Gainst thee authenticates ; so to those birds 
Who hover o'er our heads I bid adieu. 

Hip. Why I am not permitted, O ye gods, 
To ope my mouth, when I my ruin owe 
To you whom I adore ? I will not speak : 
For he I ought to move hath 'gainst my voice 
Closed his obdurate ears : I should infringe 
A solemn oath, and sport with Heaven in vain. 

The. To me past all endurance is that mask 
Of sanctity which thou assum'st. With speed 
Why go'st thou not from thy paternal land ? 

Hip. Whither can I betake myself? What friend 
Will to his house admit an exiled wretch 
Charged with this great offence ? 

The. W'hoe'er receives 

Each base invader of the marriage bed, 
And with the wicked man delights to dwell. 

Hip. What wounds my soul, and from these eyes exiorts 
The tear, is your believing me so wicked. 

The. There was a proper season for these groans 
And all thy forethought, when thou to dishonour 
The consort of thy father didst presume. 


Hip. O mansions, would to Heaven that ye a voice 
Could utter, and your testimony give, 
Whether I have transgressed. 

The. Hast thou recourse 

To witnesses who lack the power of speech ? 
Beyond all words this deed thy guilt displays. 

Hip. In such position as to view my soul 

could I stand, that I might cease to weep 
For the calamities I now endure I 

The. Thou thine own merits hast much more been wont 
To reverence, than with pious awe to treat 
Thy parents as thy duty doth enjoin. 

Hip. Unhappy mother ! wretched son ! Avert 
The curse which on a spurious race attends, 
From those who share my friendship, righteous gods ! 

The. Will ye not drag him from my sight, ye slaves ? 
Did you not hear how I long since decreed 
He shall be banished I 

Hip. They should rue it soon, 

If they presumed to touch me. But yourself 
May from these realms expel me if you list. 

The. If thou obey not these commands, I will : 
For I feel no compassion for thy exile. 

[Exit Theseus. 

Hip. The sentence is, it seems, already passed; 
Wretch that I am ! My doom indeed I know, 
Yet know not in what language to express 
The pangs I feel. O thou to me most dear 
Of all the gods, Latona's virgin daughter, 
Who dwell'st with me, companion of the chase. 
Far from illustrious Athens let us fly ; 

1 to that city and Erectheus' land 

Now bid farewell. O thou Troezenian realm, 
Fraught with each varied pleasure youth admires, 
Adieu ! I see thee now for the last time, 
And these last parting words to thee address : 
Come, O ye youths, my comrades, hither come, 
Speak kindly to me now, and till we reach 
The frontiers of this country, on my steps 


Attend. For ye shall ne'er behold a man 
More chaste, though such I seem not to my sire. 

[£>// HiProLvius. 


I. I. 

When I reflect on Heaven's just sway, 

Each anxious thought is driven away ; 
But, ah ! too soon, hope's flattering prospect ends, 
And in this harassed soul despair succeeds, 

When 1 compare with human deeds 
What fate those deeds attends. 

At each various period changing, 

Formed upon no settled plan, 

In a maze of errors ranging, 

Veers the precarious life of man. 

I. 2. 

May the kind gods' paternal care. 

Attentive to their votary's prayer, 
Grant unalloyed prosperity and wealth, 
Let me enjoy, without conspicuous fame. 

A character unstained by shame, 
With mental ease and health : 

Thus exempt from wrinkled sorrow, 

Would I ape the circling mode, 

Alter my conduct with the morrow. 

And snatch each pleasure as it flowed. 

II. I. 

Now I a heart no longer pure 
Against the shocks of fortune can secure, 
But feel at length e'en hope itself expire : 
Since from the land we see that star, whose light 

On Athens shone serenely bright. 
Removed by Theseus' ire. 
Lament, thick scattered on the shore, ye sands, 

Where Troezene's city stands. 

And steep mountains, Avhich ascending 


With thy hounds to trace the prey, 
Thou, Hippolytus, attending 
Dictynna, the swift hind didst slay. 

II. 2. 

No longer the Hennetian steeds, 
Yoked to thy chariot, o'er yon sacred meads 
Around the ring, wilt thou expertly guide. 
The Muse, whose lyre is doomed to sound no more, 

Shall the paternal house deplore, 
Bereft of thee its pride. 
For Dian's haunts beneath th' embowering shade 

Now no hand the wreath will braid. 

Thou art from this region banished, 

Hence is Hymen's torch decayed: 

All prospects of thy love are vanished, 

The rivalry of many a maid. 

By thy calamity inspired, 
With plaintive strains will I bewail thy fate, 
O wretched mother, who in vain 
The throes of childbirth didst sustain. 

I with indignant hate 
Against the gods themselves am fired. 
Ah, gentle graces, smiling at his birth, 
Could not you screen by your benignant power 
Your guiltless votary, in an evil hour 
.Sentenced to wander far from his paternal earth ? 

The servant of Hippolytus, with looks 
Which witness grief, I see in haste approach. 

Messenger, Chorus. 

Mes. Ye matrons, whither shall I speed my course 
To find the royal Theseus ? If ye know, 
Inform me ; is the monarch here within ? 

Chor. Forth from the palace he in person comes. 

Theseus, Messenger, Chorus. 
Mes. O Theseus, the intelligence I bring 
Deserves the serious thoughts of you, and all 


The citizens who, or in Athens dwell, 
Or on the borders of Trcezene's land. 

The. What mean'st thou ? Hath some recent woe 
These two adjacent cities ? 

Mes. In one word, 

To sum up all, Hippolytus is dead ; 
For he but for a moment views the sun. 

The. Say, by what ho5tile arm the miscreant fell. 
Did any one, whose wife with brutal force, 
As late his fathei-'s, he defiled, assail him ? 

Mes. The fiery coursers who his chariot drew 
Destroyed him, and the curses you addressed 
To the stern ruler of the deep, your sire, 
Against your son. 

The. Thanks, O ye righteous gods ; 

Now, Neptune, hast thou proved thyself my father. 
Since thou my imprecations hast fulfilled. 
Inform me how he perished, how the sword 
Of justice smote the villain who hath wronged me. 

Mes. We, near the beach, oft dashed by the hoarse 
Of ocean, smoothed his generous coursers' manes, 
Yet weeping. For a messenger arrived 
With tidings that Hippolytus no more 
Would to this realm be suffered to return. 
Sentenced by you to miserable exile. 
But, to confirm this piteous tale, soon came 
The banished prince, and joined us on the strand, 
A numerous group of comrades on his steps 
Attended. After a long pause, he said, 
Ceasing his plaints : "Why still should I lament 
My doom, my father's word must be obeyed : 
Those steeds, ye servants, harness to the car ; 
Troezene is no longer my abode." 
Soon as we heard, all hastened : these commands 
Scarce was there time to issue, when we brought 
The ready coursers harnessed to their lord : 
Mounting his chariot then the reins he seized, 


When he his feet had in strong buskins clad : 

But first with hands outspread invoked the gods, 

And cried : " O righteous Jove, here end my life 

If I have sinned : but let my father know 

How much he wrongs us, whether we expire 

Or still behold the light." "With lifted thong 

The rapid coursers onward then he drove ; 

We servants close behind our master's car 

Followed, along the Epidaurian road, 

Which leads direct to Argos. But at length, 

Passing the limits of this realm, we entered 

A wilderness adjoining to the coast 

Of the Saronian deep : a dreadful soimd 

W^as from the inmost caverns of the earth 

Sent forth, like Jove's own thunder, while the steeds. 

Astonished, with their heads and ears erect 

Towards Heaven, stopped short. An instant terror seized 

On all of us ; we wondered whence the sound 

Could issue, till at length, as on the beach 

We looked, a mighty wave we saw, which reached 

The skies, and from our view concealed the cliffs 

Of Sciron, the whole isthmus covered o'er, 

And ^sculapius' rock, then to a size 

The most enormous swollen, and pouring forth 

With loud explosion foam on every side. 

The tide impelled it onward to the coast 

Where stood the harnessed steeds ; amid the storm 

And whirlwind's rage the wave disgorged a bull. 

Ferocious monster, with whose bellowings filled. 

All earth resounded horribly : our eyes ' 

Scarce could endure the sight. With panic fear 

The steeds were seized that instant : but meantime 

Their lord, who to the managing them long 

Had been inured, caught up uith both his hands 

The reins, and drew them tight, as the rude onr 

A sailor plies ; exerting all his strength, 

Then backward leaned, and twisted them around 

His body : but the raging coursers gnashed 

Their steely curbs, and scoured along the field 


Regardless of the hand that steered their course, 
Or rein or polished car. Along the plain, 
If he attempted their career to guide, 
The bull in front appeared, to turn them back. 
And e'en to madness scared : but if they ran 
Close to the shelving rocks with frantic rage, 
•He, silently approaching, followed hard 
Behind the chariot ; 'gainst a rugged cliff, 
Till he the wheel directing, had o'erthrown 
The vehicle. 'Twas dire confusion all : 
Upward the spokes and shivered axle flew ; 
The hapless youth, entangled in the reins, 
Confined by an inextricable bond, 
Was dragged along; against the rock his head 
With violence was dashed, and his whole body 
Received full many a wound. These horrid words 
He uttered with a shriek : " Stop, O my steeds, 
Nor kill the master in whose stalls ye fed I 
O dreadful imprecations of my sire ! 
Who is at hand to save a virtuous man ?" 
Though mr.ny wished to rescue him, too late 
We came. But from the broken reins released, 
At length, I know not by what means, he fell, 
In a small portion yet the breath of life 
Retaining. But the horses, from all eyes, 
And that accursed monster, were concealed 
Among the mountains, where I cannot tell. 
Though I indeed, O king, am in your house 
A servant, yet I never can be brought 
To thinlf your son was with such guilt defiled, 
Though the whole race of women should expire 
Suspended in the noose, and every pine 
On Ida's summit were with letters filled ; 
So well am I convinced that he was virtuous. 

Chor. The measure of our recent woes is full : 
No means, alas, are left for us to 'scape 
The sentence of unalterable fate. 

The. From hatred to the man who hath endured 
These sufferings I with pleasure heard thy tale : 


But now through a just reverence for the gods, 
And for that wretch, because he was my son, 
I from his woes nor joy nor sorrow feel. 

Mes. But whither must we bear the dying youth, 
To gratify your wish, or how proceed ? 
Consider well : but if you would adopt 
My counsels, you with harshness would not treat 
Your hapless son. 

The. The miscreant hither bring ; 

That I, when face to face I shall behold 
Him who denies that he my nuptial bed 
Polluted, may convict him by my words, 
And these calamities the gods inflict. {Exit MESSENGER. 
Chor. To yours, O Venus, and your son's control, 
Whose gUttering pinions speed his flight, 
The gods incline their stubborn soul, 
And mortals yielding to resistless might. 
For, o'er land and stormy main, 
Love is borne, who can restrain 

By more than magic art 
Each furious impulse of the heart : 
Savage whelps on mountains bred, 
Monsters in the ocean fed, 
All who on earth behold the solar ray, 
And man, his mild behests obey. 
For you, O Venus, you alone 
Sit on an unrivalled throne. 
By each duteous votary feared, 
As a mighty queen revered. 

Diana, Theseus, Chorus. 

DiA. Thee, sprung from noble ^geus, I command 
To listen, for to thee Diana speaks, 
The daughter of Latona. Why, O Theseus, 
Do these disastrous tidings fill thy heart 
With pleasure, when unjustly thou hast slain 
Thy son, the false assertions of thy consort 
On no clear proof beheving ? Yet too clear 
Is the atrocious guilt thou hast incurred. 


Covered with shame, why hid'st thou not thy head 

In gloomy Tartarus, in the realms beneath ; 

Or, this abhorred pollution to escape, 

On active wings why mount'st thou not the skies ? 

In the society of virtuous men 

Thou canst not pass the remnant of thy life. 

Hear me, O Theseus, while I state the ills 

In which thou art involved : though now to thee 

It can avail no longer, thy regret 

Will I excite. The purposes I came for 

Are these : to show that to thy son belongs 

An upright heart, how to preserve his fame 

His life he loses, and that frantic rage 

Thy consort seized, whose conduct hath in part 

Been generous : for, with lawless passion stun 2^, 

By that pernicious goddess, whom myself, 

And all to whom virginity is dear. 

Peculiarly abhor, she loved thy son, 

And while she strove by reason to o'ercome 

Th' assaults of Venus, unconsenting fell 

By those vile stratagems her nurse devised, 

Who to thy son the queen's disease revealed 

Under the awful sanction of an oath ; 

But he, by justice rendered strong, complied not 

With her solicitations, yet no wrongs 

Which he from thee experienced could provoke 

The pious youth to violate that faith 

Which he had sworn to. She meanwhile alarmed, 

Lest to his father he her guilt should prove. 

Wrote that deceitful letter, on thy soul 

Gaining too prompt a credence, and thy son 

Hath by her baleful artifice destroyed. 

The. Ah me ! 

DiA. Doth what I have already spoken, 
O Theseus, wound thee ? To the sequel lend 
A patient ear, and thou shalt find just cause 
To wail yet more. Thou know'st thy sire engaged 
That thy petitions thrice he would fulfil ; 
And one of these, O thou most impious man, 


Which might have slain some foe, hast thou employed 

In the destruction of thy son. Thy father, 

Who rules the ocean, though to thee a friend, 

Gave what he promised, by strict honour bound. 

But thou to him, as well as me, must seem 

Devoid of worth, who waiting for no oath 

To be administered, nor till the seers 

Could uiter a response, or length of time 

Enable thee to search into the truth, 

Thy curses hast too hastily poured forth 

Against thy son, and slain him. 

The. Awful queen, 

Would I were dead I 

DiA. Thou hast committed crimes 

Most horrid ; but mayst haply still obtain 
Heaven's gracious pardon : since at the behest 
Of Venus these calamitous events 
Took place to satiate her relentless ire. 
For 'tis a law among the gods that none 
Shall thwart another's will ; we all renounce 
Such interference. Else be thou assured 
Had I not dreaded Jove, into such shame 
I never would have fall'n, nor suffered him 
Whom I hold dearest of the human race 
To perish. As for thy offence, thou first, 
By ignorance, from malice art absolved ; 
Again, thy consort, the deceased, used words 
Of strong persuasion to mislead thy soul . 
Now by the mighty conflux of these woes 
Thou chiefly art o'crwhelmed : but I, too, grieve. 
For in a good man's death the righteous gods 
Rejoice not, with their children and their house, 
Though we the wicked utterly destroy. 

HiPPOLYTUS, Diana, Theseus, Chorus. 

Chor. Here comes the hapless youth, his graceful frame 
And auburn locks disfigured. Wretched house ! 
What twofold woes, through Heaven's supreme behest, 
Invade this family ! 


Hip. How am I rent, 

Ah me ! through those unrighteous vows pronounced 
By an unrighteous father ! Through my head 
Shoot dreadful pangs, and strong convulsions rend 
My tortured brain. Ah me ! Lay down to rest 
This shattered body ! Ye accursed steeds, 
Though fed with my own hand, have ye destroyed 
And slain your master. Ah, I by the gods 
Entreat you, softly handle, O my friends, 
This wounded frame. Who stands there on my right .'' 
Carefully raise me up, and bear along 
With even step a wretch who hath been cursed 
By his mistaken sire. Jove, righteous Jove, 
Behold'st thou this ? I who devoutly worshipped 
The gods, and all the human race excelled 
In chastity, deprived of life am plunged 
Into the yawning subterraneous realms 
Of Orcus. Sure I exercised in vain 
Each pious toil to benefit mankind. 
My pangs return afresh. Let loose your hold ! 
Come, death, thou best of medicines. Kill mc 1 kill mc 
O for a sword to pierce my heart, and close 
In endless slumbers this detested life. 
How inauspicious was my father's curse ! 
That lingering vengeance which pursues the guilt 
By my progenitors in ancient days 
Committed, and my kindred who are stained 
With recent murders, terminate in me, 
No longer now suspended. O ye gods, 
Why do ye punish me who had no share 
In those enormities ? But in what words 
Can I express myself, or how escape 
From the oppressive numbness which weighs down 
My senses ? Would to Heaven the fates who haunt 
Pluto's abode, the realm of ancient night. 
Would lay me down in everlasting sleep ! 

DiA. With what calamity, O hapless youth, 
Hast thou been yoked ! It is thy generous soul 
Which hath destroyed thee. 


Hip. From celestial lips 

How doth a fragrant odour breathe around ! 
Amid my sufferings thee did I perceive, 
The pangs I feel were instantly assuaged. 
Diana sure is here. 

DiA. Beside thee stands 

Thy favourite goddess. 

Hip. Dost thou see my woes, 

thou whom I adore ? 

DiA. These eyes behold 

What thou endur'st ; but they no tear must shed. 

Hip. Thy faithful comrade in the sylvan chase, 
Thy votary is no more. 

DiA. Alas ! no more ! 

Yet e'en in death to me thou still art dear. 

Hip. Nor he who drove thy fiery steeds, and watched 
Thy images. 

DiA. These stratagems, by Venus, 

From whom all mischief takes its rise, were planned. 

Hip. Too well I know the goddess who destroyed me. 

DiA. For her neglected homage much enraged 
Against thee, to the chaste a constant foe. 

Hip. Us three I find her hatred hath undone. 

DiA. Thy father, thou, and his unhappy wife 
Complete that number. 

Hip. I bewail my sire. 

DiA. Him by her arts that goddess hath misled. 

Hip. To you, my father, this event hath proved 
A source of woes abundant. 

The. O my son, 

1 perish, and in life have now no joy. 

Hip. Yet more for you, \yho have been thus deluded, 
Than for myself, I grieve. 

The. My son, I gladly 

Would die to save thee. 

Hip. Fatal gifts of Neptune 

Your father. 

The. Now most earnestly I wish 

These lips had never uttered such a prayer. 


Hip. What then ? You would have slain me, such your 

The. Because I by the gods was then deprived 
Of understanding. 

Hip. O that in return 

Mankind could with their curses blast the gods I 

DiA. Be pacified : for in earth's darksome caves, 
The rage of Venus who on thee hath wreaked 
Such horrors for thy pure and virtuous soul 
I will not suffer unatoned to rest. 
For in requital, my vindictive hand 
With these inevitable darts shall smite 
The dearest of her votaries. But on thee 
These sufferings to reward will 1 bestow 
The greatest honours in Troezene's realm : 
For to thy shade, ere jocund Hymen wave 
The kindled torch, each nymph her tresses shorn 
Shall dedicate, and with abundant tears 
For a long season thy decease bewail. 
In their harmonious ditties the chaste choir 
Of virgins ever shall record thy fate, 
Nor pass unnoticed Phaedra's hapless love. 
But, O thou son of vEgeus, in those nnns 
Embrace the dying youth ; for 'gainst thy will 
Didst thou destroy him. When the gods ordain 
That man should err, he cannot disobey. 
This counsel, O Hippolytus, to thee 
I give ; no hatred to thy father bear, 
For well thou know'st from whence thy fate arose. 
And now farewell ! for I am not allowed 
To view unholy corses of the slain, 
Or with the pangs of those who breathe their last 
Pollute these eyes : too clearly I discern 
That thou art near the moment of thy death. [Exit DiANA 

Hip. Farewell, blest virgin, grieve not thus to part 
From a most faithful votary, who with thee 
Hath long held converse. With my sire I end 
All strife at thy behest ; for to thy words 
I still have been obedient. Wretched me ! 
Already thickest darkness overspreads 


These swimming eyes. My father, in your arms 
Receive me, and support this sinking frame. 

The. How, O my son, dost thou increase my woes I 

Hip. I perish, and already view the gates 
Of yon drear realms beneath. 

The. But wilt thou leave 

My soul polluted ? 

Hip. No, from the foul crime 

You I absolve. 

The. What saidst thou ? Shall the stain 

Of having shed thy blood no longer rest 
On me thy murderer ? 

Hip. Let Diana witness. 

Who with her shafts subdues the savage brood. 

The. How generous is this treatment of thy sire*, 
My dearest son ! 

Hip. Farewell I a long adieu 

I bid to you, my father. 

The. Ah, how pious, 

How virtuous is thy soul ! 

Hip. Implore the gods 

That all your race legitimate may tread 
In the same path. 

The. Desert me not, my son : 

Take courage. 

Hip. It is now, alas ! too late. 

For, O my sire, I die. Make no delay, 
But with this garment cover o'er my face. \He dies. 

The. Minerva's fortress, thou Athenian realm. 
Of what a virtuous prince art thou deprived ! 
Ah, wretched me ! how oft shall I reflect, 
O Venus, on the ills which thou hast caused. 

Chor. On our whole city hath this public loss 
Fallen unforeseen. Abundant tears shall flow. 
When bleed the mighty, their sad history leaves 
A more profound impression on the heart. 





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